In the midst of New York City’s recent construction boom, safety violations have often gone unchecked and workers have suffered the consequences. According to the Buildings Department for the city, there were 10 construction accidents that resulted in deaths between July 2014 and July 2015, almost double the average number for the previous four years. There were also 324 injuries overall, a 53 percent increase over the previous year. The deaths and injuries do not seem to be the simple result of a rise in construction projects, as construction project permits are up only 11 percent from the previous fiscal year. Rather, they appear to be the result of regular safety violations that could have been avoided if only the most basic rules had been followed.
Causes or complicating factors in the construction site accidents include:
- Workers not wearing safety harnesses that would have prevented falls
- Sub-par equipment such as ladders or scaffolding
- Inadequate or non-existent supervision
- Lack of safety training
- A tendency to rush projects that entailed cutting corners involving safety for workers
Workers are required to have cards certifying their safety training; in many cases, they carry cards that are forged and have not undergone the necessary training. Companies under whose supervision deaths and injuries have taken place are also found in many cases to have been repeat offenders where safety violations are concerned, apparently emboldened by relatively small fines that amount to a slap on the wrist.
Recent immigrants suffer the brunt of construction safety violations
In many cases, it is recent immigrants who suffer the consequences of lax safety enforcement on the job. Construction deaths cited in a recent New York Times article include:
- Gurmeet Singh, a 58-year-old Indian immigrant who arrived in New York 13 years ago to do construction work in the city. Mr. Singh frequently sent money back to his family in India and hoped to return to his country soon. However, he died last year while doing work on the facade of the Dream Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. An investigation into the accident in which he plummeted eight stories found that he was not wearing a safety harness, that there were no guardrails, and that the scaffolding was inadequate in every way. Mr. Singh had a fake safety id card and the company for which he worked had a history of safety violations.
- Manuel Colorado, a 36-year-old construction worker who fell 19 feet to his death on a construction site in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was also not wearing a safety harness and the company for which he worked had already been leveled a fine (which they had not paid) for failing to provide appropriate ladders and scaffolding. Mr. Colorado came to this country 15 years ago from Mexico and is survived by his girlfriend and their two children.
Legal rights for construction workers
Workers are entitled to workers compensation for on-the-job accidents. In New York, even “undocumented” workers are explicitly included in this category. However, compensation will only cover lost wages and will not necessarily cover medical expenses or adequately compensate a family for the loss of their loved one.
Some workers or their families may wish to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages in full. If they decide to take this course, it is important to act quickly due to the statute of limitations in New York and New Jersey. They will also need to consult a lawyer who can represent them in what could be a complicated case, given that liable parties may include not only construction companies, but also safety inspectors, companies that were to provide safety training, companies that subcontracted work, and firms that manufactured faulty equipment.
If you are interested in learning about your legal rights as an injured construction worker or a family member of a worker who was fatally injured on the job, please contact the attorneys at Eisbrouch Marsh. Call us at 201-342-5545 to set up a no-cost, no obligation case review.
- New York Times, Safety Lapses and Deaths Amid a Building Boom in New York http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/nyregion/rise-in-new-york-construction-deaths-strikes-the-poor-and-undocumented.html?nlid=9378554
- New York State Workers' Compensation Coverage, http://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/Employers/constructPayroll.jsp