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Deadly Week of Construction Fatalities In NYC

April has proven to be a deadly start to the 2019 construction season in New York City. In just one week, three construction workers lost their lives on the job:

  • On April 13, a 34-year-old worker in Brooklyn was killed when a 7.5-ton counterweight on a crane he was helping to assemble fell on him.
  • On April 10, a 23-year-old worker in Brooklyn who had only been on the job for a week sustained a fatal injury after falling from the roof of a 13-story building where he was replacing bricks.
  • On April 8, a 51-year-old worker in Manhattan was killed when a stone slab struck him in the head while he was working on scaffolding seven stories in the air.

The sudden spike in construction worker injuries has sparked outrage in NYC communities, particularly among safety organizations. According to Industrial Safety and Hygiene News (I.S.H.N.), several labor organizations protested last week against the safety training inadequacies in NYC that continue to lead to preventable deaths of workers. Proper safety training can have a significant impact on reducing the number of construction fatalities across the city and employers must take responsibility for learning from the past to help keep their employees safer on the job.

Protesting Local Law 196

I.S.H.N. reports multiple organizations rallied together to protest on April 17 against Local Law 196 and its poor implementation in keeping workers safe, including New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (N.Y.C.O.S.H.), Workers Justice Project (W.J.P.), and New Immigrant Community Empowerment (N.I.C.E). First implemented in 2017, Local Law 196 showed immense potential for reducing a growing rate of construction fatalities in New York and New York City by focusing on more adequate safety training courses for employees and bumping up the number of sessions required.

Unfortunately, organizations involved in the protest are concerned that Local Law 196 has fallen short of protecting employees and might have made circumstances harder for workers when it comes to receiving safety training. According to the law, all construction workers in New York City are to have obtained 30 hours of safety training for their job by the most recent deadline of June 1, 2019. Not only are workers expected to pay out of pocket for these trainings, but with hundreds of thousands of worker in the city required to meet this standard, sessions are full, and it could mean some workers are out of luck.

Recognizing the unfair position this law has placed workers in, these are the most significant concerns protestors were spreading awareness about this week regarding Local Law 196:

  • The law lacks equal access to training required for workers.
  • The law allows for the firing of workers who do not have an OSHA 30 card which is leading to falsified documents.
  • The law places an excessive restriction on which trainings are approved, and there are not enough courses to go around.

The intent of the protest last Wednesday was aimed at inspiring change within the current construction laws to promote safety and reduce construction worker fatalities we continue to see in NYC. The organizations proposed several ideas to help reach this goal, including mandating employers to pay for approved safety trainings for employees, extending the implementation deadline by up to 12 months to allow adequate time for training, and creating alternate approval paths for non-profit trainers.

Preventing Common Construction Accidents

If the proper preventative measures had been in place at all three of the worksites that saw fatal construction accidents this month, the lives of these workers might have been spared. Construction is a dangerous industry, but it does not mean that injuries have to occur. Employers can help keep their workers safe on the job by understanding the most common causes of fatal construction accidents identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and taking these preventive steps highlighted by Arbill to reduce the risks of deadly accidents from taking place:

Falls
Fall injuries are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, contributing to about 48 percent of worker fatalities in New York State and nearly 40 percent nationwide. Employers can reduce these types of injuries by providing guard rails and toe-boards around elevated platforms, open-sided floors, and on runways. Protective equipment such as safety harnesses, safety nets, handrails, and stair railings can also help prevent falls, as well as keeping areas clear from debris and using correct signage to warn employees of any fall hazards.

Struck By Object
Being struck by an object is the second leading cause of death in the construction industry. These accidents include when someone is struck by falling objects, flying objects, swinging objects, or rolling objects. They often involve extremely heavy equipment that catches workers off-guard. Employers can protect their employees from these injuries by mandating and enforcing the use of hard hats, safety glasses, face shields, goggles, and safeguards on machinery. Employers should train employees to secure materials and equipment while working with them and never position themselves near a suspended load.

Electrocutions
Electrocutions are the third leading cause of construction deaths and possibly the most avoidable. Over 300 workers die every year from electrical accidents. Employers can help reduce these injuries by reinforcing the use of adequate personal protective equipment whenever their employees are on the job. This equipment must be approved and specifically rated to withstand electrical charges to help prevent life-threatening injuries.

Caught-in/between
These accidents are the fourth leading cause of construction deaths and include workers being compressed in equipment or objects, or when a worker is struck, caught, or crushed by a collapsing structure or piece of equipment. Employers should appropriately train their workers to use the machines they are working on to avoid unnecessary accidents. Knowing how to shut the machine off, where the pull areas are located, what clothing is appropriate to wear, and encouraging a focused work environment will help keep employees safe on the job.

NYC Construction Accident Lawyers

At the law firm of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein, we have been fighting for New York City workers in the construction trade for over 50 years. Steelworkers, roofers, construction workers, and electrical workers face some of the most dangerous working conditions of any other jobs in the nation, sustaining catastrophic and permanent injuries when safety procedures are not prioritized.

All New York City workers deserve to be kept safe and healthy on the job. If you or a loved one has sustained a serious work-related injury, our knowledgeable team is here to help. Contact us for a free consultation to review your case and your rights to a safe work environment.

 

 

Sources:

After deadly week, NYC worker advocates demand better safety training. Industrial Safety and Hygiene News (https://www.ishn.com/articles/110612-after-deadly-week-nyc-worker-advocates-demand-better-safety-training) Retrieved April 25, 2019.

Commonly Used Statistics. Occupational Safety ad Heath Administrations (https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html) Retrieved April 25, 2019.

Julie Copeland, Prevent Construction Deaths. Arbill (https://www.arbill.com/arbill-safety-blog/the-fatal-four-keys-to-prevent-construction-deaths) Retrieved April 25, 2019.

NYC Boilings. Local Law 196 of 2017: Site Safety Training (SST) Curriculum. (https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/buildings/pdf/ll196_curriculum_sn.pdf