NYC Council Construction Safety Bill Requires Tracking of Injuries and Deaths
In late April, the New York City Council passed six new construction safety regulations, one of which requires detailed tracking of injuries and deaths, including how long the worker had been on the job and whether the incident occurred at a union or nonunion construction site. Penalties for noncompliance include a $25,000 fine when a company fails to report a death.
Other new requirements under NYC construction law include:
- Construction superintendents onsite for buildings four stories or higher
- Onsite safety plans for projects four stories or higher
- Additional elevator safety measures
- GPS trackers and event data recorders for large cranes
- Additional licensing for operators of large cranes
Construction deaths have risen sharply as building activity in the city has boomed. In 2015 and 2016, 30 workers died in construction site accidents in New York City. Union leaders have contended that a disproportionate number of deaths have occurred at nonunion sites because those sites are allegedly less safe, and workers have insufficient safety training. However, the absence of an injury and fatality tracking mechanism has hampered efforts to get a clear picture of what’s actually causing construction injuries.
According to the New York Daily News, Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan, a sponsor of the bill requiring injury and fatality tracking, said, “We’ll be able to see who’s getting hurt, where and why so that we as a city can make construction safer. We must count every life.”
Large crane accidents have also been a grave concern in the city for the last several years. According to a New York Post article in February 2016 citing records from the NYC Department of Buildings, “There were 433 accidents in 2015 compared with 231 in 2014. A total of 471 hardhats and pedestrians were hurt, a 91 percent increase over the 246 injured in 2014.” That same month, operator error caused a 600-foot crane to fall into a Manhattan street, killing one man and injuring three others.
As attorneys for construction workers hurt on the job, Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson appreciate the City Council’s efforts to address construction safety issues. However, one of the greatest problems threatening workers is the lack of compliance with existing laws and the inability, due to a woeful shortage of resources, for city inspectors to intervene before accidents happen. Since the best safety laws in the world can’t work without reasonable enforcement, we hope the Department of Buildings gets the resources it needs to provide vigilant construction site inspections in the future.