With Surprise Inspections, NYC Aims to Protect Construction Workers
Michele Mirman | Construction Accidents | November 25, 2019
The construction industry in New York City is exploding. NYC is currently going through what’s been called “the biggest building boom in more than half a century.” In fact, there are more than 40,00 active construction sites spread out across the five boroughs.
One thing is clear – the building boom has led to a surge in construction accident injuries in New York City. Construction accident injuries have increased by a staggering 61 percent since 2015. Last year, alone, there were 761 reported construction-related injuries in the city.
City Approves Surprise Construction Site Inspections
Officials in the Big Apple have set out to protect construction workers and keep them safer on the job. How? By empowering city inspectors to conduct unannounced, surprise inspections on job sites.
Before the surprise inspections began last year, the city would alert contractors and property owners prior to a site visit. This gave companies and employers enough notice to fix potential safety issues and make sure a safety manager was present during an inspection. This all but ensured that inspections would go well and contractors would avoid be cited and fined for safety violations.
The old system failed to capture what construction sites in New York are really like when no one is looking. It failed to give inspectors an idea about the true conditions under which construction laborers are working. During one surprise visit to a construction site in Brooklyn, inspectors discovered:
- Debris piled on top of scaffolding
- Hanging wires
- Fire extinguishers used to keep doors propped open
- Loose electrical cords, and
- Grinders left on a patio with cutting surfaces exposed.
The inspectors also discovered a bag of cement powder that had been spilled. In turn, a “white, choking cloud” of dust filled the air.
Had the general contractor, scaffolding company, and property manager known the inspectors were coming, they might have cleaned up the site and taken care of any hazards. However, since the visit was unannounced, they’ve been cited with 15 violations and told to pay the city more nearly $40,000 in fines.
In a little more than a year, the city has already issued 11,484 violations. Those total more than $15 million in fines.
Are Surprise Inspections Making NYC Construction Sites Safer?
Early reports seem to indicate that these surprise inspections have already helped to reduce accidents involving constructor laborers in New York. Between January and September 2019, there were 437 reported construction accidents in NYC. In 2018, during the same period of time, there were 590 construction site accidents. That’s a drop of 26 percent in just one year’s time.
Why? According to current and former construction laborers, “workers are often put at risk by a lack of coordination among different contractors, time and job pressures that lead ot shortcuts and inadequate enforcement of required worker safety training.” In other words, construction workers get hurt because contractors and owners take shortcuts to save time and money. When safety isn’t a top priority, workers are in danger of suffering severe, or even fatal, injuries.
Injured Construction Workers Can Seek Compensation For Medical Bills, Lost Wages, and More
When construction workers get hurt in NYC, they can potentially recover compensation from an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy. As long as the injury occurred on the job site or in the execution of job-related duties, workers’ compensation benefits should be available. Through a workers’ compensation claim, injured construction workers can get money for medical expenses as well as a portion of their lost wages. Workers who sustain severe, debilitating injuries might also be able to recover disability benefits.
Generally speaking, individuals who seek workers’ compensation benefits waive the right to sue their employers. However, that doesn’t mean you give up the right to sue other negligent parties. Under New York’s tough construction laws, property owners and general contractors can be sued, even in the absence of negligence, if laborers get hurt because of inadequate safety measures or in accidents involving scaffolding.
That’s why it’s critical to speak with a NYC personal injury lawyer with extensive experience handling construction accident cases if you’ve been injured on a job site in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, or Westchester. An attorney can help to make sure that you are best positioned to get all of the workers’ compensation benefits you might deserve, as well as money from negligent third parties.