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New York City construction accidents and injuries on the rise

A New York City newspaper's investigation into work site accidents discovered that job site accidents increased more than 30 percent from fiscal year 2011 to 2012 while the number of injuries rose 46 percent over the same period. These statistics are alarming because enforcement of job site safety has been drastically cut back. So are these cut backs in enforcement the reason for the increase in construction accidents and injuries? From 2009 to 2012, the city's buildings department cut the number of worksite inspections by 40 percent.

Two weeks after the city buildings department cited a company for failing to require workers to wear safety gear, a 69-year-old construction worker was killed when a floor in a building the company was demolishing collapsed on him. There was a known crack that could be seen in a steel beam that was holding the floor up while that same floor was "visibly sagging." The contracting company never reported the issue and made no effort to stop work as it was under pressure from the property's owner to demolish the building on schedule.

The latest figures available from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show that construction site fatalities rose from 28 to 40 from 2010 to 2011. Accidents include workers falling from multi-story heights or are hit by falling building materials or equipment. Scaffolds often collapse as do floors or entire buildings in some instances. Earlier this month an almost 400-foot crane collapsed on construction workers in Queens with three workers being seriously injured.

Along with the reduction in worksite inspections there has been a decrease in the number of notices of violations issued by the buildings department as well. There were 6,600 fewer notices issued between 2011 and 2012. The contractor involved in the death of the 69-year-old worker was cited by OSHA for failing to protect workers when it ignored clear evidence that disaster was about to strike. The maximum penalty allowed for such an offense is just under $10,000.

The construction worker's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Columbia University. When an employer is negligent and that negligence results in a fatal accident, it can be held accountable through litigation when necessary. The property where the demolition project was under way is owned by Columbia University which plans to build student housing there in time for the next semester.

Source: New York Daily News, "Jobsite accidents in New York City jumped 31 percent from 2011 to 2012, while injuries up 46% in same period," Greg B. Smith, Jan. 13, 2013

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