New laws proposed to curb rise in N.Y.C. construction accidents

With construction injuries and deaths on the rise, New York City legislators are considering new measures to prevent needless construction site accidents.

Construction accidents can have devastating consequences for workers and anyone else in the vicinity of the accident. Sadly, recent data indicates that injurious and deadly construction accidents are becoming more common in New York City. To address this issue, local lawmakers are now considering legislation that could help improve construction site safety, according to The Brooklyn Eagle.

Disproportionate increase in accidents

Since 2008, the number of workers, pedestrians, drivers and other passerby harmed in New York construction accidents has increased markedly. Reported injuries have surged 27 percent, even though overall construction, as measured by the number of permits issued, has increased only 17.5 percent. Sadly, the rise in injuries has been particularly steep recently. As of Dec. 11, 2015, the number of year-to-date injuries in New York City was 78 percent higher than the number reported in 2014.

According to The New York Times, fatal worker injuries are also on the rise in the city. Between July 2014 and July 2015, 10 fatalities occurred. This figure is almost double the average number of worker fatalities recorded during prior fiscal years.

Proposed legal measures

Several bills that have been introduced into City Council could help reduce these tragic accidents. One proposal would establish greater penalties for companies found guilty of violations that could endanger workers. These violations include working without appropriate permits and ignoring stop work orders. Another measure would establish a task force responsible for evaluating dangerous practices and other hazards at construction sites.

These bills could have significant impacts if they pass, since many construction accidents are preventable. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle does not provide statistics on the number of overall construction-related injuries that have involved legal violations or unsafe practices. However, The New York Times states that the majority of the worker deaths reported over the last two years could have been avoided. Many of these needless accidents involved the following factors:

  • Lack of training. Nonunion employees may especially be at risk for suffering injuries while performing work that they weren't properly trained for.
  • Legal violations. In some of the reported accidents, workers were not wearing harnesses or helmets, even though these measures are legally mandated.
  • Disregard for safety. In other cases, employers had a record of construction site safety violations, or employees were pressured to save time with potentially risky shortcuts.

These findings suggest that greater focus on safety and enhanced penalties for employer violations could help reduce construction site accidents. However, the fate of the proposed legislation remains to be seen.

Liability in construction accidents

People who have been harmed in construction accidents may have legal recourse. Depending on the circumstances, employees might be able to bring a lawsuit against the property owner, contractors or other responsible parties, as well as making a claim for workers' compensation benefits. For guidance regarding either option, injury victims should consider consulting with an attorney as soon as possible after the accident occurs.