For New York’s construction workers, a day at the “office” can prove harmful or even deadly. More than in any other economic sector, construction workers — especially immigrants and those who do not belong to unions — are likely to die on the job. For most workers who are injured at construction sites, falls are the culprit, and they typically result from safety violations.
Between 2000 and 2012, the rate of injury to New York’s construction workers was the sixth-lowest in the country, but construction still poses a significant danger of injury or death. At New York construction sites, falls to a lower level constituted almost half of construction fatalities in 2011 and 2012. The Centers for Disease Control reports that while fatal falls affect workers in all industries, the highest frequency is in construction.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, more than 20 percent of 2014 worker fatalities across the country occurred in the construction industry. Falls constituted the top cause of construction deaths and stand as number-one in OSHA’s “Fatal Four” causes of death among construction workers. Of 874 deaths nationwide in construction in 2014, OSHA reports that eliminating falls would have saved 349 lives.
Among the 10 OSHA safety standards that were most-violated in 2014, fall protection in the construction industry topped the list.
Special Hazards in Construction
Four percent of New York’s employment is in construction, but the industry represents almost 20 percent of workplace-related fatalities. Construction work at elevated heights poses additional dangers, and contractors violate health and safety rules more often in this especially hazardous work. Work on scaffolding, along with open elevator shafts and stairways, represent extremely dangerous conditions for construction workers. Falls from elevated heights represent almost half of New York’s construction deaths.
In addition, more than 70 percent of reported construction accidents that caused injuries between 2008 and 2013 were related to working at a high elevation, highlighting the increased risk of this type of work. Between 2010 and 2012, 80 percent of inspections of roofing and siding contractors identified safety violations. Often, contractors who violate the rules are at fault when construction workers are hurt or killed.
Rules Violations and Construction Site Falls
Falls at construction sites often are associated with conditions that are slippery, cluttered, unstable, unprotected or unsafe. In the construction industry, a number of standards — both from federal and state regulators and from industry sources — exist to provide specific guidance on preventing falls. However, a low commitment to safety and the persistence of dangerous practices contribute to the high rate of falls at construction sites.
In New York, construction employers frequently violate safety standards from OSHA. In fact, two-thirds of the agency’s inspections in the state between 2010 and 2012 ended with findings of serious safety abuses that could result in injury or death. Many of the violations related to safety requirements for ladders, scaffolding and equipment designed to guard against falls.
In almost 90 percent of fatal accidents related to working at elevated construction sites in 2012, OSHA found serious safety violations. In nearly 70 percent of those fatalities, safety rules meant to prevent injuries related to working at elevated heights were violated.
Getting Jobs Done Safely
With consistent effort, contractors and other construction employers could greatly reduce the incidence of falls at construction sites resulting in injuries and deaths. OSHA notes that at elevated work sites, employers must spend time on project planning to ensure that jobs can be done safely. Proper safety equipment should be calculated in the costs of jobs, and employers should ensure that needed tools and equipment — including personal fall arrest systems and the correct types of safety gear, ladders, and scaffolds — are available.
In addition, falls at construction sites can be greatly reduced by ensuring that workers are clear on properly setting up and using the equipment. Training on specific equipment is vital, and workers must be able to recognize potential hazards. Unfortunately, lax inspection and low penalties mean that most construction site operators are not incentivized to provide proper training and equipment for workers. In New York, only 71 inspectors monitor all the state’s workplaces in every industry, so the majority of construction sites go uninspected.
Compensation for Fall-Related Injuries
For workers who have been hurt — and for family members who have lost a loved one — in a fall at a construction site, compensation may be available. For a personal consultation with an experienced attorney, contact Ivan Diamond, Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer, or call 877-960-1702.