“Construction accidents soar amid NYC building boom.” That was the headline on the New York Post in September 2018.
The Post was tracking an uptick in construction-related injuries and deaths in New York City between 2017 and 2018. What they found was a substantial surge.
The stories were horrible: falls from heights, live wire electrocutions, broken support straps, hardhats dropping from skyscrapers and hitting construction workers below… the list goes on.
In one instance, a worker accidentally drilled a screw into his own hand, just one of the many power tool accidents in the state’s report from that year.
Similarly, the Commercial Observer compiled a decade’s worth of official state data and found that the number of construction accident fatalities in NYC during 2017 was higher than in any year since the industry’s early-aughts recession.
Undoubtedly, construction accidents have been on the rise during the past few years. We’ve seen the same patterns ourselves as construction injury lawyers for New York City, Kingston, and beyond.
Having noticed this leap in injuries between 2017 and 2018, we wanted to know… is it a fluke? After all, the number of construction-related deaths had actually fallen between 2016 and 2017 — albeit only by one, from 21 deaths to 20 (source). Or is New York’s construction worker injury problem going to keep getting worse well into 2019? And if so, why are these accidents happening? What’s behind the surge?
In the sections that follow, we dive into some of the latest construction accident statistics in New York, with particular emphasis on NYC and its surrounding cities, where these accidents are disproportionately concentrated. We also highlight workers’ rights after suffering an injury, as well as a family member’s rights after losing a beloved relative in one of these terrible accidents.
The Latest Construction Accident Statistics in New York
As of January 2019, construction is the deadliest industry in New York City, according to the state’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Source.)
Consider the following construction accident statistics in New York, all of them dating between 2017 and 2019 unless otherwise noted:
- According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, while construction workers make up only 5% of New York City’s total workforce, they account for 27% of work-related deaths. (Source.)
- When considering all industries, New York City’s worker fatality rate is lower than the national average. But when you consider the construction industry by itself, the results flip: New York City’s construction worker fatality rate is higher than the national construction worker fatality rate. (Source.)
- Prior to the current rise in construction accidents, New York City had boasted a twenty-year decline in its construction worker death rate (1994 to 2014). However, even during that time, the construction industry’s death rate was five times higher than the death rate across all other industries. (Source.)
- During that same time period (1994 to 2014), an average of 20 NYC construction workers were killed on the job every year. (Source.)
- As of February of this year, 2019 has seen 82 construction accidents, 96 construction injuries, and 0 construction deaths in New York City so far. Each of those numbers is lower than the corresponding year-to-date numbers in February 2018 (120, 119, and 4, respectively).
This last stat presents some good news, indicating at least some improvement since the surge reported in the Post last fall.
But the year is young, and there is already some reason for caution: 96 construction accident injuries in just two months is a very high number, and it’s exactly the same year-to-date number recorded in February 2017 — a year that ended up breaking the record for post-recession construction accidents.
The Most Common Construction Accidents in New York
According to the New York City Health Department Bureau of Vital Statistics, the most common cause of construction accident deaths in New York are as follows:
- Falls (58%)
- Falls from scaffolds (25%)
- Falls from ladders (16%)
- Falls from roofs (11%)
- Being struck, crushed, or caught between objects or equipment (32%)
Other types of accidents, including auto accidents, electrocution, and assault, are associated with injury but are not as frequently associated with worker death.
Why Are NY Construction Workers at Higher Risk of Injury?
Construction sites can be dangerous, whether they’re in New York or not. But there are a few factors that combine to put construction workers in New York at especially high risk. Consider, for example, the following facts:
- New York’s construction projects are often ambitious: tall buildings, built by big crews, and on an accelerated schedule.
- The city is currently in the midst of a building boom, which extends into many of the metro’s surrounding communities and satellite cities.
- There is currently a shortage of skilled construction labor in New York, meaning that some laborers are overworked while some contractors resort to hiring less experienced or less qualified personnel. The City itself has noted that more projects are being accomplished by smaller crews, which itself can increase the risk of injury (see the Vital Statistics report for reference).
- Many of New York’s construction jobs are offered on a short-term basis, meaning workers frequently find themselves in new settings, using new equipment for new tasks. This lack of familiarity, which is sometimes coupled with inadequate training, makes accidents more likely.
One other thing we know about the risk level in New York: statistically speaking, older workers are at slightly higher risk in NYC, and so are those whose highest education level is at high school or less.
What Causes Most Construction Accidents in New York?
The majority of construction accidents are entirely preventable. Most are caused by violations of important safety standards or simple negligence, often by the contractor, employer, or machine manufacturer.
In fact, NYC Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics found that at least one serious safety violation was cited in 90% of OSHA investigations into fatal construction accidents in New York City.
The most common citations included violations of:
- Training requirements
- Fall protection standards
- Scaffold safety standards
- Stairway safety standards
- Ladder safety standards
Disturbingly, 13% of those OSHA investigations revealed at least one willful violation of a critical safety standards (meaning the employer knowingly failed to correct a hazardous condition). These willful safety violations included:
- Knowingly using faulty or damaged equipment
- Intentionally disabling safety features on dangerous equipment
- Purposely violating other safety standards for the sake of efficiency or profitability
Talk to the Kingston Construction Injury Lawyers at O’Connor and Partners
The companies and employers that hire construction workers or operate construction sites have a legal duty to hire carefully, provide adequate training, comply with all applicable safety regulations, and generally maintain safe working conditions.
If you or your loved one has been injured or killed while working in the construction industry anywhere in the State of New York — or if you have suffered injury at a construction site as a visitor or passerby — you may be entitled to financial compensation under the laws of our state.
These claims can involve numerous areas of law, including personal injury, premises liability, product liability, worker’s compensation, and beyond.
The law firm of O’Connor and Partners is proud to offer no-cost, no-risk case consultations for people who’ve been injured in connection with New York’s booming construction industry.