New York has laws in place to protect construction workers, but recent reports show that workers at construction sites are still highly vulnerable to workplace injuries and deaths. Furthermore, current data indicate that this trend will not be reversed anytime soon.
Section 240 of the New York labor law specifies that scaffolding, ladders, hoists and other devices needed for building erection, repair and demolition are to be designed in a way that provides adequate protection to construction workers. This means that scaffolding must be capable of withstanding four times the expected maximum weight. Furthermore, staging and scaffolding located more than 20 feet off the floor or ground must have safety rails and should not sway away from the building.
Unfortunately, even the best regulations do not prevent workplace accidents, and New York Daily News reports that injuries and deaths of construction workers have been on the rise over the past several years, both in the city and the state as a whole. Statewide, the number of construction incidents resulting in injuries or deaths almost quadrupled between 2011 and 2015, climbing from 128 to 435. Falls contribute to 36 percent of construction-related fatalities across the state, but within New York City, workplace falls play a role in more than half of such fatalities.
These depressing numbers are driven by several factors. First, New York City is enjoying a building boom, which means that as the number of construction projects rises, so do the number of accidents. Another contributing factor is that despite the increase in construction, the number of workplace safety inspections conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration decreased dramatically between 2011 and 2015. Among the workplace inspections that have occurred, an overwhelming majority led to safety citations.