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NYC construction worker deaths: Why New York's "Scaffold Law" is important

We have talked in previous posts about the alarming rise of construction-related deaths in New York City. Many of the city's recent fatal accidents have involved falls and falling machinery. There is a painful feeling among workers, workers' families and worker advocates that some of the accidents could have been prevented.

Placing safety responsibility where it belongs

New York State Labor Law Section 240, which is sometimes known as the "Scaffold Law," is designed to hold project owners and contractors accountable for injuries to workers on construction sites. Where the worker falls from a height or is struck by a falling object, the law recognizes that workers who are exposed to such elevation-related conditions are subject to the risk of serious injuries. These rules are important because they place primary responsibility for safety where it belongs -- on the owners and contractors (and their agents) who control the job site.

Some businesses choose to put profits ahead of worker safety. It is not surprising that a number of New York builders and developers would like to see the "Scaffold Law" dismantled or weakened.

NYC construction worker deaths: Why are we skimping on safety during a building boom?

Construction workers are dying in increasing numbers. A recent New York Times opinion piece threw out a shocking number: There were 31 New York City construction fatalities, most of them on nonunion worksites, in the last two years.

Many people wonder why there are so many catastrophic accidents when machines are more sophisticated than ever, proper safety equipment is readily available and safety awareness among workers is high. Sadly, the problem appears to be rooted in greed.

When profit overrides safety: NYC construction deaths in windy conditions

As sad as it seems, some fatal construction accidents are preventable. In New York City, there is a long and significant history of catastrophic construction accidents that have one problematic thing in common: windy conditions under which people probably shouldn't have been working in the first place. 

On November 22, the New York Times reported that two construction workers were accidentally killed earlier on that "gusty day" in Queens. A 6500-pound steel beam dropped four stories from a crane. Unfortunately for the two workers who died, winds reportedly exceeded 30 miles per hour that day.

NYC construction accidents: What happens when the worker is blamed?

Construction work is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. All too often, workers are seriously injured or killed, and sometimes innocent bystanders are hurt or lose their lives because of construction accidents -- right here in New York City.

Safety experts (and workers themselves, who understand the job better than anyone) chalk up many accidents to workplace safety problems, which are ultimately the responsibility of employers. Unfortunately, workers may be blamed for accidents, too. The New York Times reported that this was the case with the horrific, wind-related crane accident in lower Manhattan on February 5, 2016.

Alarms are ringing for construction worker safety in New York City

New York City has recently experienced a building boom. While construction soars, a concerning side effect seems to only be getting worse: worker injuries and fatalities. The death of two construction workers last month in Queens was the final straw for the New York City Council. Recently, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke in favor of reforming the city's construction safety rules.

The City Council scheduled an oversight hearing regarding better safety for workers, with the goal of reducing fatalities to zero. This new scrutiny on construction site safety is partly the result of 12 worker deaths in 2015, according to the New York City Buildings Department. The numbers climbed from eight fatalities in 2014, and 2016 is not looking much better. Yet in actuality, the fatalities may be worse than what is reported.

Why are crane accidents still causing so many worker fatalities?

November's deadly crane accident in Queens has put crane safety in the spotlight. Two workers were killed when a crane cable snapped and dropped a 6,500-pound steel beam four stories. While the city continues to investigate, possible causes include cable failure due to the weight; also, the fatal accident occurred on a windy day, so weather may have been a factor.

After the accident, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that the council is concerned about the high rate of crane accidents, which have taken too many lives in New York. It leaves many asking why cranes are still so dangerous for construction workers.

Just two of many deaths this year

This tragic accident marks the second crane incident that has caused fatalities this year in New York City. These deaths are just a fraction of the total every year in the country. Crane accidents were involved in 25 deaths last year in the U.S., according to OSHA.

Construction falls are a major danger

As the saying goes, "Accidents will happen" -- and the reality is that construction falls happen more than any other accident. It's tragic that, year after year, workplace falls are near the top OSHA's most reported injuries.

The same federal rules apply to everyone: An employer has to make a workplace as safe as possible, and nobody should come home at the end of the day with an injury or end up in the hospital. Yet, in a recently published list, failure to supply fall protection is the number one violation OSHA found in their inspections over the past year.

The Human Cost Of Skyscraper Building In Post-9/11 New York

On the fifteenth anniversary of the most tragic day in New York City's history, we remember and mourn the many lives that were lost when the World Trade Center towers were attacked. Sadly, construction of the spectacular new 1 WTC complex came with many serious injuries.

In November 2014, 1 WTC opened. According to the New York Daily News, two workers died during the construction of 1 WTC (which includes the now-iconic 104-story Freedom Tower) and dozens of others suffered life-changing injuries, some of which went unreported. Construction work requires courage, but is it still more dangerous than it should be?

The 4 most deadly hazards on construction sites

There's no disputing it; being a construction worker is a dangerous job. Whether you are working with heavy machinery or high atop scaffolding, you are always one slip-up away from suffering a serious - and possibly life-threatening - injury.

In fact, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an alarming 899 construction workers suffered fatal injuries in 2014 alone - accounting for more than one-fifth of all U.S. work-related deaths in the private sector that year.

Another year, another attack on New York's Scaffold Law

It seems like every year there is another group that tries to convince lawmakers to change, or even eliminate, New York's Scaffold Law - and this year is no different. Sadly, these proposed changes are rarely to the benefit of construction workers, the very people this law is supposed to protect.

Essentially, this important safety law - otherwise known as New York Labor Law §240 - currently works like this: When a construction worker suffers an injury while working at an elevated height, such as atop scaffolding, liability for the injury typically rests with the property owner or general contractor. In some cases, this law provides the best avenue of legal recourse for construction workers injured in severe falls. Unfortunately, if efforts to change this law are successful, it will surely be construction workers who pay the price.

*AV Preeminent is the highest rating of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the confidential opinions of members of the Bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell ratings fall into two categories - legal ability and general ethical standards.

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