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Who’s Minding the Store on Construction Safety?

More cranes punctuating the NYC skyline may be a welcome sign of economic recovery for some. But for others, it’s an ominous reminder that the safety of our city’s workers and bystanders is seriously at risk.

Jobsite accidents and injuries are soaring – and it’s no coincidence that inspectors are harder to find. A New York Daily News article outlined the situation:

  • Worksite inspections have been steadily decreasing – down some 40 percent over the past three years, from a high of 244,000 in fiscal 2009 to just over 141,000 in 2012.
  • Violation notices dropped by 6,600 last year alone.
  • Meanwhile, city records show accidents in the metro area soaring an alarming 31 percent – from 119 in fiscal 2011 to 157 in 2012.
  • Associated injuries rose even more – up some 46 percent from 128 in FY 2011 to 187 in 2012.

Without proper oversight, licensed contractors are being charged with policing themselves and their multiple job sites – to be, as one Department of Buildings (DOB) official called them, the “eyes and ears” of the department. But with steady pressure to keep job sites active, is it any wonder that the fox-guarding-the-henhouse approach is failing to adequately protect workers or bystanders?

Just last month, a construction worker was put in grave danger when a trench collapsed at a Queens construction site that, according to a CBS-2 report, had numerous violations and a stop-work order already in place. “The DOB is toothless,” commented one bystander. Perhaps so, but in a workplace injury lawsuit they – as well as the contractor – may not be found blameless.

Review Barasch McGarry

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