A rise in fatal construction accidents has New Yorkers worried. New York Times reports there have been eight deaths in construction-related accidents since the start of 2015. This already matched last years’ death toll. During the same time period in 2014, there were three deaths.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer knows myriad factors affect the likelihood of a construction fatality but one of the biggest is demand for construction work. More demand for projects means more workers, including more people without significant experience and training. Because the construction industry is growing not just in New York but nationwide, death and accident tolls are rising too. Employers and workers should be vigilant about safety and employers must ensure new hires are carefully trained.
Accident Risk is High in New York City in 2015
The 2015 death toll is the highest in New York’s construction industry since 2008, during the heady days of the last construction boom. In 2008, a record $32 billion was spent on construction projects in New York. In 2014, that record was exceeded and $36 billion was spent. More than 98,000 building permits were obtained in 2014.
It’s not just deaths on the rise; a 21 percent increase in accidents occurred between 2013 and 2014. The data for 2015 accidents isn’t available yet, but 2014 saw 231 construction accidents.
The president of New York Building Congress explains the higher death toll: “The more jobs we have, it either means fewer workers doing more work, or more new workers who may not have as much experience or training.” His statement is confirmed by past research. Workers new to any job are three times more likely than seasoned workers to suffer an injury in the first month of their work. Certain industries are more dangerous for new workers than others. The Institute for Work and Health names construction as one of the most hazardous injuries for new employees. Men are at the greatest risk when new on-the-job.
Accidents don’t have to happen and many are preventable. In 2008, falling cranes killed 19 people. This year, a 12-ton heating and air conditioning unit fell 30 stories in an accident on Madison Avenue. In December 2014, a worker was killed falling half a story off a ladder and another was killed falling from scaffolding. Fall prevention and prevention of falling objects are two of the most important safety issues.
Construction unions contend the rise in non-union labor is a big part of the reason safety precautions aren’t being taken and workers aren’t receiving proper training. Six of the eight fatalities in New York this year involved non-union workers.
Whether workers are in unions or not, every employee deserves proper training to ensure he can perform his job without getting hurt or killed. New workers brought on should be educated in safety practices and carefully supervised to ensure they follow protocols and don’t put themselves and others at risk.