New York City construction accidents on the rise

Lack of oversight may be to blame for the rise in construction accidents in New York City between 2011 and 2012. New statistics show that accident and construction injury rates have increased as the city cuts down on the number of inspections it performs in a year. Unfortunately, this means that many construction workers will by injured or lose their lives due to workplace hazards.

Crane collapses in Queens

A crane collapse in Queens in mid-January is only one in a string of construction site accidents over the past year. Fortunately, no one was killed when a crane collapsed over the East River, though seven workers were injured with broken bones and other non-life-threatening injuries.

The accident occurred at the site of a new residential building. Workers reported they heard a popping sound immediately before the crane came crashing to the ground. As it fell, the crane took down the entire framework for the new building, since no concrete had been set yet.

Rash of construction accidents leaves workers at risk

Between 2011 and 2012, the number of construction site accidents in New York City rose 31 percent, from 119 in 2011 to 157 in 2012. The number of injuries arising from construction site accidents rose even higher, from 128 injuries in 2011 to 187 in 2012, a 46 percent increase. Furthermore, fatalities at construction sites in New York City, northern New Jersey and Long Island increased from 28 to 40 during that time. Most injuries were caused by a worker falling at a jobsite or by falling equipment or material.

Lack of oversight a major hazard to construction workers

The rash of construction accident injuries may be attributed to the decreased number of inspections the city conducts on sites in its jurisdiction and lax oversight on behalf of city and federal agencies. Between 2009 and 2012, New York City reduced the number of inspections it performed from 244,000 to a mere 141,000 - a 40 percent reduction.

When inspections decrease, accountability for worker safety decreases because fewer safety violation citations are slapped on construction companies. In fact, the city has decreased its oversight to such a degree that it now admits it is primarily relying on construction contractors to police themselves for worker and jobsite safety violations.

Unfortunately, even well-intentioned contractors are unable to adequately monitor safety at their worksites. For example, one superintendent was responsible for 14 jobsites when a worker fell to his death at a site that was allegedly under his care. Now, it has been more than a year since the death and the city has yet to issue a citation to the company for safety violations.

Sadly for workers, the lack of oversight of construction sites extends beyond the city buildings department. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has also dropped the ball in recent months. Workers are concerned that when OSHA does issue a citation, the punishment is too weak and comes too late to help improve safety at a jobsite.

For example, OSHA settled with a company over a $14,000 fine for a safety violation in which three of a worker's fingers were torn off. The total fine after the settlement was reached was just $5,292, the equivalent of $1,700 per finger lost.

To reverse the recent trend in construction site accidents, injuries and deaths, New York City needs to start getting more serious about construction site safety and oversight. Until then, however, construction workers will continue to face more workplace hazards and accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in a workplace accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.