In fiscal year 2015, 10 workers died while doing their jobs on construction sites in New York City. This almost doubled the annual average number of fatalities over each of the prior four years. There was also a 53 percent increase in the number of construction workers injured on New York City jobsites over the course of fiscal year 2015, with 324 workers left hurt after incidents on-the-job. Equipment World reports that a significant number of the deaths were preventable but occurred anyway because job safety conditions on many New York City jobsites are “woefully inadequate.”
Regulators are supposed to make sure that safety rules are followed, but they are unable to do so because there are too few regulators and the sheer volume of the construction going on in the city is overwhelming the inspectors. It is tragic that the city cannot send enough inspectors to worksites to make sure that employers are following safety rules and it is equally tragic that employers fail to take the initiative on their own and make sure construction sites are safe.
Unfortunately, under New York’s workers’ compensation rules, there are limits on remedies for injured workers and employers typically cannot be sued under most circumstances. Workers, however, can file third-party lawsuits against any non-employers whose negligence contributed to a construction incident. Workers should also consult with a New York personal injury law firm for help making a workers’ compensation claim so they can get benefits, including medical coverage and disability income, if they cannot work or if their earning power is reduced by an injury.
Officials in the city of New York recognize that the “overwhelmed” regulation apparatus is a key factor in exacerbating injury risks for construction workers. Further, as Equipment World noted, a recent report found problems at the city’s Building Departments, including a history of corruption and officials being paid to ignore code violations rather than forcing corrections to occur.
The city has tried to deal with some of these problems. For example, photo identification cards are supposed to be obtained by workers who complete safety courses required by the city. The problem is, the actual cards cost $300 and typically require workers to take two days off work for training. Employers do not pay for the costly cards. The cards are being forged and sold for just $25, though, and some workers end up forced to get the cheaper version out of economic necessity and because they cannot take time off during busy construction periods.
New efforts by the city will include stepping up random site inspections, as well as increasing the rate in which manslaughter charges and other criminal charges are brought against developers and contractors who are determined to have been willfully negligent in keeping up jobsites and preventing unsafe conditions.
Hopefully, these efforts can help to act as a deterrent to prevent more deaths or serious injuries on-the-job. Workers also need to ensure they know their rights. Contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff after an injury so they can explore all options for pursuing a claim.