Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that he intends to do everything he can to improve safety on construction sites. His decision to pursue changes to how safety violations in the construction industry will be dealt with comes just one week after a crane collapsed in Tribeca, killing one man and injuring several others.

An Increase In Penalties

On Friday, February 12th, 2015, de Blasio stated, “No building is worth a person’s life. We have a responsibility to keep the men and women who are building New York City safe.”

He went on to say that the fines for the failure to follow any safety standards would be quadrupled, rising from $2,400 to $10,000. For those who choose to run their construction sites without superintendents, a maximum fine of $25,000 will be put into place.

The mayor believes that due to the growing number of construction projects and a push to get the jobs done quickly, the city has seen a rise in construction accidents. The total number of accidents in 2015 reached 433 – nearly double that of previous years.

Additionally, there is a plan to hire 100 new inspectors so that random safety inspections and other measures can be taken.

The Most Common Safety Violations

It really wasn’t that long ago that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created. The administration began its work in 1970, making great strides in the creation of standards which would provide construction workers with safe and healthy work environments.

Despite their hard work, however, common violations still occur, including ones involved with the construction and use of:

Scaffolding

It doesn’t take much for a worker to lose their balance on loose floorboards or a slanted floor on scaffolding. Research has shown that although OSHA requires that all platform areas be fully planked, with boards placed no more than 1 inch apart, contractors frequently choose to ignore this rule. In some cases, inspectors have found workers forced to stand on a single one-foot board.

Electrical Lines

Whenever there are energized power lines on a construction site, the employer is responsible for making sure that those lines are properly grounded and de-energized. If this is not done, there is a high chance that an employee may come in contact with those lines and be electrocuted.

Excavation Tunnels

If safety standards are not followed, employees may be suffer from cave-ins, the inhalation of toxic fumes, explosions, or electrocutions.

Machinery

All heavy machinery and most tools have certain safeguards and training that must be provided before they may be used. Without these, workers frequently suffer from broken bones, lacerations, and amputations.

Surprise Inspections

OSHA has the authority to perform random and surprise inspections. Although there are not enough inspectors employed by the department to cover each and every construction site on any given day, the thought that one might occur at any minute keep many employers from taking shortcuts that would put their employees at risk.

If a citation is given during the construction process, it will categorized as one of the following:

  • other-than-serious
  • serious
  • repeat offense
  • failure to abate
  • willful

If the inspector determines that a willful violation occurred and resulted in a fatality, they may choose to send the case to a criminal prosecutor, who may decide to press criminal charges.

What Can Construction Workers Do?

If an employee suspects that their employer has violated an OSHA safety standard, they may file a formal complaint to their local OSHA representative or online.

That complaint will be reviewed and if the complaint is deemed valid, then the workplace will be inspected and other employees will be interviewed. If any violations are found, a citation will be issued.

The complaint that is filed will be kept confidential, so employees do not need to worry about backlash from an angry employer.

What If I’ve Already Been Injured?

If you or someone you know has been injured on a construction site, it may be possible to pursue legal action in the form of a construction accident lawsuit. Although workers’ compensation may provide you and your family with some of the funds you will need to pay your medical expenses, it typically isn’t enough. By filing a legal claim, you could possibly recover compensation for pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and lost wages. 


by Lever Gottfried Ecker PLLC
Last updated on - Originally published on