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Staying Safe from COVID-19 in New York’s Deadly Construction Industry

If you or a loved one works in the construction industry in New York, you are likely aware that it’s a dangerous profession, but research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in recent years shows that it is in fact the single deadliest industry in New York City. A lack of safety training and unsafe conditions and equipment have long been a large part of the problem. And unfortunately, today’s construction sites aren’t getting any safer as new cases of Coronavirus continue to surface while many construction workers remain on the job.

If you or a loved one works in the industry, now is the time to think about how you can keep yourself safe at work, both in the coming months and throughout peak construction season. Below we’ll tell you more about how to best protect yourself from construction site threats, including Coronavirus, and how a New York personal injury lawyer can help if you are injured or become ill on the job.

Recent New York Construction Injuries: The Big Picture

The most recent BLS numbers for a single year are from 2016-2017. During this period, they reported that the construction and extraction industry had 18 and 22 deaths per year, making up a full 25 percent of the city’s workplace deaths. However, these numbers are somewhat deceiving, as the New York Department of Buildings (DOB) only keeps track of deaths and injuries that resulted from a violation of the city’s construction code. You can read summaries of their injury reports here. To give you a sense of the numbers, however, 2018 saw over 750 injuries in New York City alone.

Needless to say, the variety of dangerous accidents that can happen at any construction site at any given moment is large. From faulty equipment to slips and falls from great heights, as you can imagine, the injuries that result from these accidents are often incredibly severe. The leading specific causes of construction accidents in 2019 were falls (22.5 percent), falling materials (10 percent), and mechanical incidents (2.5 percent).

To give a few specific examples, in July of 2019 in Long Island, two construction workers were killed after they fell from a scaffold that was not approved for use. One of them was a teenager. Just two months prior, in May, a 49-year-old man was killed after falling 30 feet while working on a Midtown Manhattan construction site. Another serious accident in Manhattan left a worker crushed beneath a crane that fell on him while he was working.

Even when deaths do not occur, the injuries sustained in these types of accidents are often severe. Stories of workers being trapped in trenches, injured from collapsing construction site walls, and seriously harmed by glass falling from high rises onto construction sites are just some of the situations that can lead to life-altering injuries.

Coronavirus Poses New Threats to Construction Workers’ Health

In recent weeks, the construction industry in New York has received mixed messages about whether or not it is considered an “essential” industry that will remain open even as other businesses are closed to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

As recently as March 25, construction on projects like luxury condominiums and office buildings was still going strong, despite many sick workers. However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has now restricted construction work to affordable housing, infrastructure, hospitals, and emergency construction. Any company that continues construction projects deemed “non-essential” will face fines up to $10,000 according to the State.

While it’s good that many workers are no longer being required to risk their health by going to work, construction workers working on projects deemed “essential” by the state are still being exposed to many risks. A recent New York Times article points out many problems these workers face. For one, construction sites are notoriously dirty: toilets are shared and there is often not running water, soap, or hand sanitizer for proper hand washing. Workers also share tools, which could obviously cause disease to spread. Social distancing is also incredibly difficult as so much construction work happens in teams where workers are in close contact. Many workers are ill, yet construction is continuing.

If you work in construction, it is important to be as careful as possible onsite to keep yourself healthy. You can do this by wearing a face mask when possible, bringing hand sanitizer with you to work and using it as often as possible, and trying to avoid touching your face and practice social distancing of six feet whenever possible. If you fall ill, make sure to stay home from work and quarantine yourself for a full two weeks. If your symptoms are especially bad and include a dry cough, fever, or severe headache, get tested for Coronavirus immediately. Finally, if you do get sick with Coronavirus, and feel that your employer did not take proper precautions, Butafuoco and Associates may be able to help.

Safety Training Issues Cause Many Accidents

In addition to the new safety threat posed by Coronavirus, construction sites are notorious for high numbers of accidents in New York City. A major issue is that there is a lack of thorough safety training throughout the industry. Although Local Law 196, which requires that workers receive at least 40 hours of safety training and supervisors receive 62 hours, was passed in 2017, it will not be fully implemented until September 2020. This leaves us with several months where construction workers may be unsafe on the job.

To best protect yourself while the training is being rolled out, make sure to always wear protective gear including a hard hat, safety glasses, gloves, and earplugs. In addition, ensure that you have been properly educated on how to use all machinery that you will be operating onsite. If you need to, demand proper training. Finally, be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to any potential hazards in your vicinity so you can avoid an injury.

When to Contact a New York Construction Accident Lawyer

No matter what precautions you take or how well-trained you are, there is always the possibility that you could be injured or, in the face of Coronavirus, become seriously ill while at work on a construction site. If you are injured in a construction-related accident and are unsure what to do, contact Buttafuoco & Associates. Our firm specializes in construction accidents and has years of experience successfully helping to protect our clients’ rights and get the compensation they need to have a full recovery.

Consultations are always free. Contact us today at 1-800-NOW-HURT.


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