A Construction Hazard That's More Common Than You Might Think

In New York City, a passerby is injured at least once a month on average by falling debris. Anything from bricks to scaffolding to construction equipment has been known to cause serious injury to unsuspecting bystanders.

The Department of Buildings keeps track of construction accidents in monthly reports, but the data lists only that the construction-related injuries and fatalities occurred - not whether the injury victim was a construction worker, a pedestrian or another passerby. The Department of Buildings statistics do show that construction accidents have become more common as the pace of construction has quickened in recent years.

So, what is being done to protect pedestrians from falling construction debris? In 2014, the city's building code was revised to require that construction fences be built to withstand 80-mile-per-hour winds. The city also sends safety inspectors to routinely check large construction sites, and it keeps tabs on contractors identified as being a high-risk for construction accidents.

Certified site safety managers are also required for all major construction projects in New York City. However, those safety managers are hired by the contractors themselves - not an independent organization. They face a conflict of interest. Their paycheck comes from the contractor, but they must also enforce Department of Buildings, OSHA and FDNY regulations, which can cost contractors additional and unwelcome time and expense.

Despite regulations and monitoring, pedestrians still face the risk of injuries from falling debris. If they are injured, they should know that legal action is possible. Lawyers can take action against the contractors responsible, holding them accountable for the harm caused.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Around New York building sites, a little-known threat," Josh Barbanel, April 22, 2015

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