Construction Site Inspections Have Fallen As Injuries Have Risen. Since the construction boom began in recent years, there has also been an increase in construction work-related deaths in New York. A total of 17 deaths were reported in 2011, while 25 job site deaths were recorded in 2015. Statewide, construction injuries have increased 40 percent, according to a new report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health. Adding injuries, construction accidents in New York State have risen from 128 in 2011 to over 400 in 2015.
The number of safety inspections has also been rising. In fact, federal investigators with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) conducted approximately 3,000 inspections in 2011; however, according to the report, only 1,900 inspections were conducted in 2015, a drop of almost 30 percent. Researchers believe the drop in safety inspections is the result of staff reductions. In fact, New York State does have less inspectors. For example, in 2011, over 80 inspectors were reviewing work zones for safety hazards, while today, the agency only has 66 active inspectors.
According to the Bureau of Worker Statistics, the private construction industry saw a net increase of 25 fatal work injuries for a total of 899 in 2014. The 2014 total was nine percent higher than the 2013 total and represented the largest number of fatal work injuries in private construction since 2008. Falls are the most common type of common construction accident, which comprises almost 60 percent of all construction-related injuries and deaths in New York. According to OSHA, New York’s figures are well above the national average of 36 percent and approximately 70 percent of thousands of OSHA inspections conducted revealed safety violations and citations. Also, 93 percent of contractors cited multiple times by OSHA were for non-union contractors.
Construction sites are dangerous places that involve physical labor, powerful machinery, climbing great heights, or working on roadsides where traffic accidents may occur. Because of the nature of construction work, employees face routine and serious risk of injuries while working. OSHA data suggests injuries typically occur at work sites that are not well supervised and that have minimal safety measures. The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in accident cases. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a lawsuit.
Not all construction sites follow safety policies and a number of construction companies recently lobbied against 19 construction safety bills brought to City Council, despite massive support from trade unions. Safety advocates note that lax safety on constructions sides must change to stop the rising accidents.
Types of Construction Site Injuries
Construction site work carries serious injury risks to construction workers. According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the 3.3 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses that were reported in 2009, over nine percent involved construction workers. In fact, construction workers experienced 4.3 nonfatal injuries and illnesses per every 100 full-time construction workers and falls comprised 22 percent of the injuries and illnesses that construction workers reported.
Falls usually involve falls from cranes, ladders, roofs, scaffolding, and other work heights. Construction workers may also be hit by objects that fall from above, including tools and materials that are not appropriately secured. These types of injuries may lead to brain and spinal injuries, even when a worker is wearing correct safety equipment such as a hardhat.
Construction workers may also be injured by faulty or misused heavy machinery that is typically seen at construction sites, such as a forklift or boom that may not be operating appropriately, or a nail gun that misfires, or a dumpster that topples. There are also large trucks continually backing out of sites and workers may be crushed between these trucks and larger obstacles such as concrete, a wall, or another truck or equipment. Other hazardous conditions include leaking pipes, exposed wires, and flammable and toxic chemicals. Trench and buildings scheduled to be demolished may collapse, workers may become trapped in areas in work sites, workers may fall, and scaffolding may fall, all of which may lead to injury or death. Workers may be injured by electric shock, not wearing appropriate gear, errors made by other workers, and area traffic accidents.
Construction workers are also subject to respiratory illness. From 1990 to 1999 over 1,000 construction worker died from pneumoconiosis, which is a chronic lung disease that is usually involved with occupational-associated locations and dust, asbestos, and silica exposure. Fatal pneumoconiosis conditions include asbestosis, coal workers’ black lung, and silicosis. Construction sites and work practices that are not safe may expose workers to lead, even at high levels. According to scientists, there is no safe level of lead and lead exposure may lead to damage in any area of the body. From 2002 to 2008, construction workers made up 16 percent of all high blood lead levels reported.
Because of the repetitive motion and hard physical work involved on construction site workers may suffer repetitive motion injuries and muscle and joint damage. Constantly working outside may lead to heat stress when it is hot, which may cause brain, heart, or kidney damage, and even death. Being outside in the cold may lead to hypothermia or frostbite causing the loss of fingers, toes, and facial areas.
Construction injuries may also lead to:
- Amputation: Finger, toe, limb
- Broken bones, fractures
- Burns due to fires, explosions, electrocutions
- Cuts, lacerations due to exposed nails, tools, machinery, construction rubbish
- Eye injuries, loss of vision due to being impaled by objects: Shrapnel from grinding metal, dangerous chemicals, toxic gas
- Head or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from falls or having objects dropped on a construction worker on the job site.
- Loss of hearing due to loud noises at construction sites and failure to wear hearing protection while using loud machinery
- Paralysis, spinal cord injuries due to falls
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic accident
- Shoulder, knee, ankle injures: Sprains, overuse
- Toxic exposure to chemicals