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Top 4 Causes of New York Construction Fatalities and How to Protect Yourself

When we think about what happens during a typical day in the construction industry, it is no surprise that it’s the number one most dangerous industry in New York to work in. Working at great heights, using heavy equipment, and standing on structures or scaffolding that could fail all put workers at risk of serious injuries and fatalities.

2020’s Deadly Skyline Report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH) found that fatalities across the state have decreased, but have increased in New York City. And even with the decreases elsewhere in New York, fatalities are still happening far too often. Some kinds of accidents are more likely to result in fatalities more than others, and by being aware of them you can protect yourself on the job. I’ll tell you more below as when a New York construction accident attorney can help if you or a loved one is injured or killed on the job.

2020 New York Construction Fatality Statistics

According to the 2020 NYCOSH Deadly Skyline report, which gathered statistics for 2017 and 2018, numbers of fatalities on construction sites are down but the industry still remains extremely dangerous. The good news is that the number of deaths among construction workers across the state decreased by 14.7 percent between 2017 and 2018, from 69 deaths to 58. In New York City, however, the numbers were not so promising. While 20 construction workers died in 2017, 22 died in 2018, an increase of 10 percent.

Recently in New York City, Local Law 196 was passed, which requires increased enforcement of safety standards on construction sites. While the law may have a positive impact on construction fatalities, especially when they are related to a lack of safety standard enforcement, some kinds of accidents are more difficult to prevent as sites have many inherent dangers. Regardless of the cause of the accident, however, remember that if you or a loved one is injured or killed on the job, you have the legal right to sue for compensation for your injuries.

Top Causes of Construction Deaths

While many accidents are not the fault of workers, it’s still a good idea to refresh yourself on the most common types of construction deaths and how to protect yourself on the job. The top four causes of construction deaths in New York are on par with national causes of construction deaths that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration refers to as “the big four.” These causes of deaths make up 85 percent of New York construction accidents.

#1: Falls

According to the 2020 Deadly Skyline Report, in New York City and New York state, falls are the number one cause of construction worker deaths. In the last 10 years, they have been the cause of 48 percent of all construction deaths in both New York City and the state. In 2018 in New York City, falls comprised 64 percent of all construction deaths.

#2: Being Struck by Objects

On every construction site, there is plenty of heavy machinery, tools, and other heavy objects. When you pair this with workers working on tall buildings with other workers below them, it makes sense that this is a major cause of accidents and deaths.

#3: Electrocutions

Making bodily or equipment contact with electrical wires can be difficult to avoid when doing construction work. Oftentimes, electrocutions are caused by a lack of safety enforcement, especially the failure to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). This equipment, if it is used properly, can significantly decrease the risk of electrocution.

#4: Being Caught In or Between Structures

Being caught in or crushed by equipment, objects, or being crushed by a failing structure that collapses is a serious cause of death among New York construction workers. Equipment or materials that collapse, as well as scaffolds or trenches that fail also commonly result in fatalities.

While we do not yet have statistics, something to keep in mind is that COVID-19 has the potential to cause both serious illness and death. Because New York’s construction industry has been deemed essential and has remained open throughout the pandemic, it is likely that many deaths are related to the virus. This is especially worrisome since construction workers often work in very close contact and sometimes lack sanitary restrooms. You can read our detailed article on the risks here.

How to Protect Yourself on the Job

While protecting yourself from injuries on a job site can be a challenge, there are many things you can do to reduce the risks of injury or death. Here are our top tips for doing so:

  1. Request proper education and training. The majority of all construction accidents could be prevented with proper safety training. In New York City, new safety requirements have improved safety on construction sites to a degree, but some site managers still fail to provide enough training. If you have not been trained on a piece of equipment you are unfamiliar with, a specific type of job you have never done, or even a tool you are about to use, don’t wing it: ask for instruction.
  2. Use Your Personal Protective Equipment. Construction sites can get hot in summer, and it’s easy to take off your hard hat or other safety gear to stay cool. But a falling object, a fall, or making contact with a live electrical line can be fatal without proper protective gear. Hard hats, protective eyewear, and work boots are a must. It is also essential that your equipment fits properly and is in good shape.
  3. Notify supervisors of unsafe conditions. If you are working on a construction site and feel that the conditions are too unsafe to proceed, notify your supervisor immediately. Water, snow, ice, and even mud can, for example, make scaffolding incredibly dangerous. Many falls can also be prevented by the addition of guardrails and safety nets, so it is not out of line to request them.
  4. Exercise Ladder and Stairway Safety. Ladders and stairways are among the most common sites of construction accidents and deaths. When you are going up or down a ladder, make sure there are three points of contact. Always have your tools hoisted up to you rather than carrying them.

When to Contact a New York Construction Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured on the job, even if you are worried that the accident was your fault, your supervisor or company may still be liable. Don’t take the blame without first speaking to a lawyer, as you may be eligible to claim damages and be compensated for your losses. Likewise, if your loved one was injured or killed on a construction site, it is in your best interest to consult with a construction accident lawyer.

At Buttafuoco & Associates, we have successfully fought for the rights of those who have suffered in construction accidents, including those involving fatalities. Our breadth of experience and our record of success in these types of cases speaks for itself.

Consultations are always free. Contact us today at 1-800-NOW-HURT or fill out our form.


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