Have you or a loved one been hurt or even fatally injured while on the job as a construction worker in New York City?
According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, in 2015, 4,836 people were fatally injured while on the job. This is more than 13 deaths each day for the entire year! Out of those 4,836 fatalities, 4,379 were in the private sector, and one in five was in the construction industry.
The most common types of fatal construction accidents in the U.S. are: fall, being struck by an object, electrocution, and workers getting caught in/between things. These “fatal four” types of accidents are responsible for an overwhelming majority, over 64% of construction worker deaths.
Let’s take a closer look at these four categories of construction accidents.
Falls on Construction Sites
A 59-year-old construction worker fell 18 feet to his death in a site in Times Square, and a 62-year-old surveyor was on a 16th floor platform in a build on the West Side of Manhattan when it collapsed and he fell 10 stories. Both of these deaths were potentially preventable.
This doesn’t even begin to strike the surface of all the the serious injuries that do not result in deaths from falls on construction sites. In one week of May of this year, three separate falling incidents occurred that resulted in serious injuries and required challenging rescues and immediate medical attention.
In one, a construction worker fell from the upper level of the Verrazano Bridge and struck a beam and broke both legs. His rescue involved cutting through a fence. A man working on a residential building on the Upper West Side was seriously injured when he fell from a crane and required firefighters to do a difficult high-angle rescue. On the Upper East Side, a man was working on the 6th floor of a building when he fell onto a piece of steel and had to be put in a basket and lowered six stories to the ground level for medical attention.
With OSHA pushing out information on preventable construction worker injuries and deaths and discussing safety standards, construction worker injuries, especially falls, are coming under fire in the entire country and in NYC.
When one of our clients fell off a ladder while working at a construction site, he required multiple wrist surgeries and re-injured his lower back from a prior accident which now required surgery. He continued to receive treatment and is permanently disabled, and we were able to settle in his favor for $2,250,000.
Being Struck By Objects
Fall protection is extremely important on construction sites. This refers to tools, objects, and people themselves. Anything can fall and injure others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 52,260 “struck by falling object” OSHA recorded incidents in 2015. That equals more than one injury caused by a dropped object every 10 minutes.
Proper safety equipment and following all safety protocols could prevent thousands of falling objects. Most construction sites have fall protections in place for workers, including harnesses and being tied off, but few extend those protections to tools and equipment.
All construction workers, including bricklayers, welders, plumbers, carpenters, drywallers, and even painters are at risk of electrocution onsite. Live wires, electrical sources, and electrocution from equipment coming into contact with overhead power lines account for hundred of accidents and injuries per year, including deaths.
An average of 40% of construction worker deaths from electrocution are the result of contact with overhead power lines. These power lines are very close to workers in heavy machinery like cranes, bucket trucks, scaffolds, those on ladders, and more. Workers can also be electrocuted in crawl spaces, attics, ceilings, and more. Electrocution can result in injuries like broken bones, brain damage, nerve damage, heart attacks, and even death.
Just recently in July 2017, a construction worker was critically injured while working on the roof of a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper. Proper training and safety precautions would be able to prevent many of these incidents.
Workers Getting Caught In or Between Things
Getting caught by objects or in between two objects is extremely dangerous, and accounts for over 7% of construction accidents. While that may not seem like much, that is about 70 annual deaths of workers who are killed when caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material. It often leads to very dangerous or precarious rescue attempts, and can be a painful recovery and permanent disability when the worker survives.
According to an OSHA training guide, the key factor in making a determination between a Caught event and a Struck By event is whether the impact of the object alone caused the injury. When the impact alone creates the injury, the event should be recorded as Struck By. When the injury is created more as a result of crushing injuries between objects, the event should be recorded as Caught.
Examples of Caught In/Between incidents:
- Cave-ins (trenching).
- Being pulled into or caught in machinery and equipment (this includes strangulation as the result of clothing caught in running machinery and equipment).
- Being compressed or crushed between rolling, sliding, or shifting objects such as semi-trailers and a dock wall, or between a truck frame and a hydraulic bed that is lowering.
Some of the working conditions that contribute to caught in/between hazards include:
- Machinery that has unguarded moving parts or that is not locked out during maintenance.
- Unprotected excavations and trenches.
- Heavy equipment that tips over.
- Collapsing walls during demolition.
- Working between moving materials and immovable structures, vehicles, or equipment.
If you know someone injured in any way on a construction site, contact an experienced construction attorney immediately. We can help you get compensation for medical bills, therapy, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. Let us help you.
FY 2016 total federal inspections: 31,948
FY 2016 total State Plan inspections: 43,105
Worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities
4,836 workers were killed on the job in 2015 [https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm] (3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) — on average, more than 93 a week or more than 13 deaths every day.
Construction’s “Fatal Four”
Out of 4,379 worker fatalities in private industry in the calendar year 2015, 937 or 21.4% were in construction — that is, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (64.2%) the construction worker deaths in 2015, BLS reports. Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 602 workers’ lives in America every year.
- Falls — 364 out of 937 total deaths in construction in CY 2015 (38.8%)
- Struck by Object – 90 (9.6%)
- Electrocutions – 81 (8.6%)
- Caught-in/between* – 67 (7.2%)
- (*This category includes construction workers killed when caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material)
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 1 in 10 construction site workers are injured each year in serious accidents.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures this statistic to account to approximately 150,000 construction site accident injuries each year.
Fatal occupational work injuries totaled 74 in 2015 for New York City in 2015
Fatal occupational injuries in the city have ranged from a high of 191 in 1993 to a low of 56 in 2013.
Nationwide, a total of 4,836 fatal work injuries were recorded in 2015, a slight increase from the 4,821 fatal injuries in 2014, according to the results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program.
Construction and extraction occupations (23) and transportation and material moving occupations (14) had the highest number of workplace fatalities.
“We need to take action now to end the crisis of rising construction fatalities in New York State. These deaths are almost always preventable and occur on non-union job sites 80% of the time. Latino workers compose the majority of fall fatalities—57% in 2015; and there is a strong correlation between employers who steal workers’ wages and who force workers to work under unsafe conditions,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH.
“The ‘Deadly Skyline’ report illustrates yet again what we know to be true: preventable construction fatalities are on the rise in New York City and the only way to end this epidemic is with training and safety requirements for all workers,” said Patrick Purcell, Executive Director of the Greater New York Laborer-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust. “Thankfully the wait is now over and meaningful construction safety legislation will be introduced in the City Council today that will ensure stringent safety and training standards. I want to thank NYCOSH for continuing to shine a light on the construction industry and how we can work together to protect all construction workers.”
“NYCOSH’s ‘Deadly Skyline’ report further exposes the crisis and epidemic afflicting construction sites across New York City,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the 100,000 member Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “New data shows an astounding increase in worker fatalities in New York State and New York City, as well as safety violations at 90 percent of construction fatality sites. The new legislation introduced by the City Council will go a long way towards creating higher standards in the industry and prevent more needless deaths of our brothers and sisters.”
Partial List of Key Findings:
- Workplace fatality rates are trending upward in New York’s construction industry.
- Non-union construction sites are especially dangerous for workers.
- Employers who violate health and safety laws also cause worker fatalities.
- Latino construction workers die at a disproportionate rate due to falls and employers’ “willful” violations of health and safety laws.
- Wage and hour violators are more likely to be safety and health violators.
- The fatality rate of its workforce climbed 38.9% from 2011 to 2015.
- 464 workers died in construction-related accidents in New York State in the ten year period from 2006 to 2015.
- The New York City construction sector, which employs 3% of the city’s workforce, has the highest occupational death rate: 34% of all workplace deaths across various industries. For Los Angeles and Chicago, the rates are 32% and 24% respectively. The NYC sector with the next highest occupational fatality rate was the trade, transportation, and utilities industry, accounting for 20% of all workplace deaths.
- Work-related incidents involving deaths and injuries increased 88% from 2014 to 2015 (231 incidents in 2014 and 435 in 2015)
- The majority of sites where workers were fatally injured had violated OSHA safety standards: 80% in 2014 and over 90% in 2015
- Majority of worker deaths happened at non-union sites: 80% in 2014 and 74% in 2015
- In 2014, 68% of all construction site inspections found OSHA safety violations.
NYCOSH’s Recommendations Include:
- Require Adequate Education and Training, like OSHA 10 trainings for all New York City construction workers and apprenticeship programs for large projects.
- Preserve the Scaffold Safety Law, and Pass the NYS Elevator Safety Act to require workers to be licensed.
- Require new NYS “Criminal Contractors” legislation to establish effective penalties against contractors like Harco Construction, whose willful negligence causes a worker fatality; and look at revocation of licenses at the City level for employers who are convicted of felonies that cause a worker death.
- Develop new enforcement strategies informed by the intersection between safety and wage violations; and protect Latino workers proactively.
Every month, an average of 6,000 building applications are filed in New York City. That startling number includes both new construction and renovations. Every year, there are approximately 72,000 active construction sites in New York City. Source
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries. In fact, more people die in construction accidents than in any other field. Almost half of the construction deaths result from the fatal four: (1) falls (2) being struck by an object (3) electrocution and (4) being caught in or in between objects. These are also the causes of most construction related injuries. Source.
(for the following)Source: http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/os/pr146ny.pdf
- In 2014, the construction industry in New York State reported 3.4 non-fatal job-related injuries or illnesses for every 100 workers, or 3.4%.
- Specialty trades had an accident/illness rate of 3.7%.
- In terms of raw numbers, these incidence rates translate to approximately 9,800 occupational injuries/illnesses in the construction industry in New York State in 2014 serious enough to require reporting to the authorities.
- There were also 42 construction-related worker deaths in 2014, out of a total number of 203 worker fatalities in New York State, making the construction industry the largest overall contributor to worker fatalities in the state. About half the construction industry fatalities, 22 out of 42, occurred in New York City.
Labor Law Section 240 (1) is known as the “Scaffold Law.” This provides special rights of recovery to injured construction workers who are injured due to elevation injuries – i.e., falling from scaffolding. The law also covers cases by falls, as well as workers being hit by objects coming from heights. The law imposes absolute liability against the owner, general contractors and/or their agents. Liability is assumed. Source.
“New York City is experiencing a building boom that has transformed barren blocks and led to a frenzy of construction on commercial and residential buildings across all five boroughs. But that activity has come at a sobering cost: In the last two years, the number of workers hurt and killed in construction accidents has surged.
The rise in deaths and injuries — mostly among undocumented immigrant laborers — far exceeds the rate of new construction over the same period. It is stark evidence of the view increasingly held by safety inspectors, government officials and prosecutors, that safety measures at these job sites are woefully inadequate.
A review of every construction fatality in the past two years by The New York Times has found that many could have been, as a federal investigation into one accident put it, “completely avoidable.”” Source: NY Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/nyregion/rise-in-new-york-construction-deaths-strikes-the-poor-and-undocumented.html