Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations, especially in New York City, home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. While construction accidents are commonplace, statistics collected over the past ten years demonstrate that construction tops the charts as New York City’s most lethal industry, with more injuries reported last year than any other year following the post-recession building boom, as reported in the Commercial Observer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of construction-related deaths in New York City has remained steadily high over the past few years, with a slight decrease from 21 to 20 annual deaths in 2017.
The most recent construction fatality, according to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), occurred in November 2018, when a worker was crushed by a forklift on the site of a six-story residential condo in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. One month prior, a worker repairing the facade of a 20-story co-op in Kips Bay, Manhattan, died after a fragment of the building collapsed on top of him.
Despite these gruesome accounts, there are still incidents that have yet to be reported, as the DOB only tracks deaths related to a violation of the city’s construction code, rather than tracking all work-related injuries on the job site. There are at least a half-dozen more fatalities that occurred in 2018 than the 12 cases reported by the DOB, bringing the actual number closer to 20.
Although the annual death toll has remained constant in recent years, construction accidents surged significantly in 2018. According to the DOB, 761 construction workers were injured last year, which is a 13 percent increase from the 671 incidents that were reported in 2017.
Due to the elevated injury rates, the City Council has implemented a number of measures aimed at protecting construction workers and reduce accidents and deaths on job sites. Among them was a law passed in September 2017 mandating construction workers to attend at least 40 hours of safety training by September 2020. The rise in construction-related accidents since then may indicate that employers are not taking these safety precautions seriously, and that the city is not doing enough to protect construction workers from deadly mishaps.