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Construction Workers Face Greater Accident Risks on Shorter Buildings in NYC

NYC constructionConstruction workers in New York City face a substantial risk of injury while performing work tasks. According to Commercial Observer, a total of 1,446 accidents happened on NYC construction sites. These accidents caused 40 fatalities.

One of the biggest factors impacting the risk of injury on a construction site was the height of the building being constructed. Since there are so many high-rises in NY, most people assume that construction workers typically get hurt most frequently when working on tall buildings. Not only does this theory seem to make sense because so many buildings are tall, but it also seems like more could go wrong on a taller building.

The reality, however, is that there are substantially more construction accidents in shorter buildings. In fact, 75 percent of the construction accident fatalities that happened between 2010 and 2015 occurred on a building that was less than 10 stories tall. Why are there so many construction site injuries on these shorter buildings? It is because the worker safety regulations are not as strict as the regulations on taller buildings.

In New York City, a building of less than 10 stories is classified as a minor building. The safety regulations applicable to minor buildings are much less stringent when compared with major buildings that are 10 stories or greater.

If a building under construction is at least 10 stories, a site safety manager or coordinator must be on site. A safety coordinator or safety manager is a professional contractor whose sole function on a construction site is to make sure that the workplace is safe for construction workers. Coordinators or managers are licensed by the New York City Department of Buildings and they are skilled at helping to ensure there are no dangerous violations that could endanger workers.

Minor buildings are required to have a licensed superintended in order to ensure project safety; however the superintendent typically multi-tasks and does many other activities including dealing with vendors and overseeing the flow of the construction project. He is not 100 percent focused on safety alone.

In most cases, a safety plan is also not required for the construction of a minor building, and construction workers may not be required to complete a minimum of 10-hours of safety training from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Safety plans and training are mandated in most cases when a major building is being constructed.

Without the added focus on safety, it should come as no surprise more workers are dying on shorter buildings. Data also shows that if an accident happens, a minor building is 51 percent more likely to be hit with a safety violation.

Clearly, these construction sites on shorter buildings need to be managed better when it comes to ensuring worker safety.  If construction companies won't do the work on their own to create a safe worksite, maybe the rules should change to require more oversight and safety planning so worker injury risks can be reduced.

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