Recently, an op-ed in the New York Times lamented the fact that New York City was not a safe place for construction workers. As the op-ed explained: “Poor immigrant workers are falling off our buildings and being crushed to death in our streets. The mayor, public officials and New Yorkers at large must stop tolerating, indeed condoning, this epidemic of workers dying “accidentally.”
The opinion piece was prompted by the significant number of construction worker injuries and fatalities that have occurred within New York City in recent years. Unless drastic changes are made to improve safety, this troubling trend of rising construction injuries and deaths is likely to continue into 2017. Injured workers and their families must know their options after something goes wrong, and should talk with a New York workers’ compensation law firm for help getting injury or death benefits after an accident.
In arguing that New York City is letting down construction workers, the op-ed writer retold tragic stories of workers who died on the job, including a man who was wearing a harness while working on the third floor but who died when he fell because his harness wasn’t actually hooked to anything. This man, who died on December 23 on an Upper East Side construction site, was the 31st construction worker to die in New York City in just the past two years alone.
Other causes of construction worker deaths cited in the Times article included a fall from a Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, and a falling steel beam that took two lives on a job site in Queens. In total, 29 of the 31 deaths that were listed as having occurred in the prior two years happened at non-union worksites.
Many of the worksites where deaths occurred were not following proper safety protocols, such as offering training programs and installing fall protection systems. Worksites have been able to get away with violating safety rules without getting caught since spending on NYC construction is at a record high at the same time as OSHA (which should be inspecting these worksites) is understaffed. OSHA’s understaffing issues have reduced the number of construction worksites that get investigated, which can make employers feel as if they can break rules with impunity.
The Times opinion piece suggested a number of possible ways to improve conditions for workers including more frequent safety inspections, stricter licensing requirements for contractors, better safety training programs for construction workers, and support and incentives to encourage developers to sign union contracts.
It is uncertain if any of these recommendations will result in action, or if the number of fatalities can be significantly reduced if action is taken. Unfortunately, it seems likely that as demand for construction remains steady or rises, death rates and injury rates will continue to be high.
Workers and their families should be sure to understand their rights if an accident occurs, and should contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff for help as soon as possible after an injury or death so an attorney can help to pursue a benefits claim.