It seems that anywhere you go around New York City, there are construction projects springing up like mushrooms after a spring rain. While that is good news for the economy, what effect does it have on the safety of the construction workers doing all of the labor?
The past few years has seen an uptick in the number of construction injuries and fatalities. Most of the injured or dead workers were undocumented immigrants.
Federal investigations into the workers' deaths deemed some accidents to have been "completely avoidable." Typically, patterns emerge indicating the same core inadequacies lead to the dangers.
Federal findings of worker fatality causes
Lack of fall precautions and mandatory use of safety equipment led the list. Most construction sites where workers died failed to take basic steps to prevent them from falling. Even though it's the law, laborers often worked without helmets and harnesses, and there was no enforcement.
In some cases, there was inadequate supervision of the workers. When supervisors were on site, their focus was on production and haste. When workers cut safety corners to meet deadlines, supervisors looked the other way.
The projects with the highest fatality rates generally were small projects with a heavy reliance on inadequately trained, nonunion laborers. Contractors on these jobs had often racked up penalties for prior safety violations on other jobs. Sometimes they didn't bother paying.
In 2015, the commissioner of the agency tasked with investigating construction fatalities said, "There is absolutely no doubt that there is a real problem with construction safety."
The precarious legal status of the unauthorized immigrant workers can make the industry rife with exploitation, as this worker demographic is not likely to call attention to themselves by complaining about working conditions on the job.
If you are a laborer on a construction site in New York City who was injured due to negligence or lack of safety protocols, you may wish to explore your legal options for compensation.
Source: The New York Times, "Safety Lapses and Deaths Amid a Building Boom in New York," David W. Chen, accessed Aug. 11, 2017