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Why are there so many construction accidents and injuries in New York City?

Consistently ranked by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as one of the most dangerous professions, the many dangers faced by construction laborers cannot be overstated. So far this year, New York City’s Department of Buildings details that there have been an estimated 400 injuries reported by construction workers and at least six deaths. The number of injuries is especially noteworthy considering that is represents nearly a 68 percent increase over the 237 reported injuries during 2014.

Factors contributing to the apparent increased dangers construction workers are facing on the job are varied, complex and often difficult to both qualify and quantify. For example, the construction projects of buildings that are less than 10 stories high “represent 95 percent of active job sites” in the city. According to the city’s construction safety guidelines, these sites rarely require the oversight and inspection of site-safety managers. They also tend to be smaller projects, the majority of which are believed to be completed by smaller nonunion contractors.

City statistics show that roughly 78 percent of construction accidents include nonunion contractors. Based on these figures, it’s easy to deduce that nonunion contractors are less safe. In reality, however, neither the city’s Buildings Department nor OSHA tracks whether a construction job is completed by union or nonunion companies and often both types of workers are present on a worksite.

While union construction companies do invest much more time and money into educating and training workers about related safety hazards, many within the industry contend that lack of oversight and incentive to do a better job are also major factors. For example, the costs associated with identified safety violations and workers’ injuries and deaths are also low enough to discourage many construction companies from taking steps to put workers and their safety first.

Additionally, the Buildings Department currently employs roughly 500 inspectors, which means that, based on the 34,000 listed job sites, each inspector is responsible for closely overseeing an average of 68 worksites.

Source: Crain’s New York Business, “Unsafe at any height: It’s more dangerous than it has been in years to work in construction,” Joe Anuta, Nov. 8, 2015

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