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Why Are NYC Construction Site Accidents On The Rise?


New York City Construction Site Injuries

New York City construction sites have experienced a significant spike in accidents. A December 2018 Crain’s New York Business report indicates the year 2018 proved to be the most dangerous year for construction workers since the beginning of the 2008 recession. In 2019 over 287 injuries and five deaths have occurred on construction sites through the five NYC boroughs. Proper safety training and Stop Work Authority guidelines are critical.

Statistically speaking, the number of fatalities or injuries at New York City construction sites saw a big jump in 2014 when compared to 2013. Perhaps not so coincidentally this aligns with the fact the construction industry saw its first boom in several years during this time. The number of city permits issued continues to rise – according to news reports, the number issued reached an all-time high in September 2018.

While a healthy construction industry is a great boost for the overall New York economy, it does come at a high cost. If construction accident injuries are to be avoided, it’s important to understand the reasons why NYC construction accidents are on the rise.

Construction Is New York City’s Most Dangerous Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction is New York City’s most dangerous occupation. When all other occupations are taken into account, construction routinely ranks as the highest for work-related deaths. Men, by far, are most affected since they make up almost 90 percent of the city’s work-related deaths.

Data released by the NYC Department of Buildings illustrated the occurrence of construction site injuries had jumped a considerable 17% in 2017. Worse, the number of fatalities associated with these types of accidents have doubled. In 2018, this trend continued with numerous incidents. By year’s end, 761 of the city’s construction workers were killed in various sites across the city. Furthermore, numerous Environment Control Board (ECB) violations are routinely reported at construction sites. The ECB monitors to see construction codes and zoning resolutions are complied with and, if not, violations are issued by the Department of Buildings.

Part of the problem may be attributed to contractors cutting corners to save on their budgets, along with the high burdens often associated with meeting build deadlines. Much of the city’s infrastructure is aging so there is pressure to replace these structures to comply with safety regulations. In response, contractors may hire cheap labor, use inexpensive materials, or forge counterfeit training cards to get the job done as cheaply and quickly as possible.

Construction Industry’s ‘Fatal Four’

Accidents at construction sites occur in many ways, but four different types of accidents significantly stand out. In fact, they stand out so much in this industry, they have been dubbed the “fatal four”, even by official accounts. These four types of accidents equate to almost 60 percent of all construction site accidents.

Construction Falls

Unfortunately, falls are all too common for the city’s construction workers and makeup almost 40% of all construction site accidents. Considering workers are often heisted up tall buildings on scaffolding equipment and ladders, it’s not surprising, because falls are always a risk. It’s important for the industry’s workers to always be properly trained and supplied with the appropriate safety equipment to reduce these risks.

Being Struck By An Object

On construction sites, falling objects pose a high risk for both workers and passerby on the street, accounting for just over 8% of construction-related accidents. Even small objects falling from the top of a tall building can lead to serious injury or death due to the high amount of force it gains as it falls from an elevated height.


Most construction sites need electricity to get the work completed. However, electrocution is a problem and comprises about 7% of all construction accidents. For instance, unsafe wiring can lead to a worker being electrocuted, and these injuries can lead to burns, amputation, or worse, death.

Trapped ‘In-Between’

Accounting for approximately 5% of all construction site related accidents is the caught “in-between” category. These accidents encompass workers getting caught or trapped in between two heavy objects or becoming pinned by heavy equipment. OSHA notes this category also includes workers being crushed in collapsing structures or getting compressed by equipment or objects.

Officials Enact Measures To Reduce Construction-related Industries

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous jobs found in the city.

New York City data indicates worksite deaths have increased by 33% when compared to the rates of a mere five years ago. In this five-year span, work injuries are up an incredulous 221%.

In 2017 Mayor Bill De Blasio signed Local Law 196 which put emphasis on establishing, maintaining and enforcing safe construction site environments. The following initiatives are being implemented and put into place in stages. Local Law 196 will be fully phased in on September 1, 2020.

  • Increased fines for construction site safety violations.
  • Additional supervisors on construction sites.
  • Adding 150 inspectors to ensure sites are following safety regulations.
  • Mandating extra training – a minimum of 40 mandated hours for all workers.

Despite these proactive initiatives, along with the natural risks that come with the construction occupation, the sad part is many of these incidents are completely preventable. In April 2019, Tim Hogan, NYC’s Department of Building deputy commissioner of enforcement, told CBS News there were “roughly” 45,000 active construction sites in NYC and that a quarter of these sites were not in compliance.

Construction site injuries are unfortunately all too common. While some progress has been made to reduce these numbers, unfortunately, by looking at statistics, much more work needs to be done.

Construction Site Accident Lawyers

The dedicated attorneys at O’Dwyer & Bernstien have been fighting for the rights of New Yorkers for more than a century.

If you, or a loved one, have suffered from one of the many serious construction accident injuries or another type of personal injury, you deserve justice and may be entitled to compensation. We’ll examine the details of your situation and determine if you have a case. Call our office today for a free consultation.

Jason Fuiman

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Co-Managing Partner and Chair of O'Dwyer & Bernstien's Labor & Employee Benefits practice, Jason has over twenty years of experience in the New York legal industry.