New bills aim to reduce construction injuries and deaths in N.Y.C.

Construction accidents in New York City are causing more deaths and injuries to workers as well as passerby. Now, several bills seek to curb this epidemic.

Construction work has ramped up in New York City over the past few years, as many locals know firsthand. Unfortunately, with this change, serious construction-related accidents have also increased. Local data reveals that injuries to both workers and third parties have risen out of proportion to the uptick in construction activity, according to The Brooklyn Eagle. Now, members of City Council are considering new legislation that could help curb this rise in accidents.

A surge in preventable accidents

Since 2008, injuries arising from construction in New York City have jumped 27 percent. This figure encompasses injuries to laborers as well as people who weren't involved in the construction work, such as passing pedestrians and drivers. Over the same interval, overall construction activity, as indicated by building permits issued, has only risen 17.5 percent. Troublingly, this issue also appears to be worsening; from 2014 to 2015 alone, construction-related injuries surged 78 percent.

Based on a review of two years of data, The New York Times reports that fatalities among construction workers are also on the rise. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been prevented through appropriate safety measures and other best practices. The investigation revealed that many of the worker deaths involved the following factors:

  • Inadequate training or supervision
  • Falls that could have been avoided
  • Potentially dangerous time-saving measures

In many cases, pressure to complete projects quickly evidently caused supervisors to neglect training or make workers cut corners. Overall, The New York Times found that the majority of the worker deaths reported during the past two years were entirely unnecessary.

Improving on-site safety

In light of these troubling statistics and findings, Councilmembers have introduced various bills that could improve safety at New York City construction sites. One bill would create a task force that would periodically assess the safety risks that workers, motorists and pedestrians face at construction sites. Two of the bills seek more stringent penalties for contractors that disregard stop-work orders and operate without appropriate permits.

Councilmembers and other authorities are also considering more careful regulation of work on buildings that are over nine stories high. As the city's building commissioner has noted, a disproportionate number of accidents happen at these sites. One potential solution is requiring the presence of superintendents during all projects of sufficient size. One Councilmember has also proposed requiring all laborers working on buildings at least 10 stories high to complete an approved apprenticeship training program beforehand.

Recourse for accident victims

Unfortunately, until some of these measures are implemented, construction accidents may continue harming many workers and passerby. When these accidents happen due to one party's failure to exercise proper care, victims may have legal recourse. Depending on the circumstances, workers or third parties may be able to recover damages through a premises liability claim, a product liability claim or a personal injury lawsuit.

Since many factors can give rise to construction accidents, determining who is at fault in these incidents can be challenging. To avoid oversights or misdirected efforts, victims should consider discussing the situation and their legal options with the attorneys at Smiley & Smiley, LLP.