Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

A July 27 report by Construction Dive detailed some of the heftiest citations levied against construction job sites in Q2 2020 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which inspects workplaces for safety compliance and takes enforcement action against violators. OSHA’s Q2 citations include actions for fall safety, the improper use of hydraulic excavators, and a fall resulting in death. They range from $134,937 to $234,642.

The largest action was taken against Columbus, Ohio contractor Alejandro Vasquez Gallegos. OSHA inspections found alleged safety violations including “workers on roofs without sufficient fall protection, employees without safety glasses and workers using ladders improperly,” according to Construction Dive. The inspectors observed these violations at two separate construction sites. It proposed fines of $141,222 and $95,420, totaling $236,642. The contractor has not contested these citations.

The second largest action was taken against Pacific, Missouri firm Unnerstall Contracting Co. LLC. According to OSHA records and Construction Dive, a December 2019 inspection found that one of the firm’s workers sustained an injury when a trench collapsed, and OSHA subsequently issued the firm “four serious and three willful citation violations,” with proposed fines totaling $224,459. OSHA also added Unnerstall to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA records docuent allegations that the firm failed to properly protect its trenches, permitted water to accumulated in the trench floor, did not offer a safe exit path from the trench, failed to protect employees from struck-by hazards, and permitted employees to ride in heavy equipment buckets. The firm is contesting OSHA’s citations.

Continue reading

The New York City Department of Buildings issued 550 violations of COVID-19 safety protocols to construction sites across the city, according to a recent report by Crain’s New York. Data released by the city shows 213 violations found in Brooklyn construction sites, 167 violations found in Manhattan construction sites, 124 violations found in Queens construction sites, 42 violations found in Bronx construction sites, and four violations found in Staten Island construction sites, Inspectors doled out the most citations on their first day of inspections, July 8, issuing a total of 30 on that date, and 29 on July 9.

Department of Buildings inspectors routine examine New York construction sites to ensure compliance with safety protocols. These include the maintenance of a COVID-19 communication plan, the appointment of a staffer with oversight over safety issues, the maintenance of a cleaning log, contact tracing procedures, and elevator signage, as Crain’s explains. Sites provide workers with the means to perform hand hygiene—whether by washing or using hand sanitizer—and construction site workers are also required to wear face masks when they cannot maintain social distancing. Violations of COVID-19 safety protocols can result in construction companies or contractors receiving fines of as much as $5,000. Failure to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols could also lead to the city issuing work stoppages to the sites in noncompliances.

Continue reading

Amid a long-running construction boom in New York, the Department of Buildings (DOB) sent a message to construction companies and contractors by cracking down on habitual offenders with a round of “surprise inspections.” The DOB’s new commissioner took action against the construction industry during his first few days on the job. “Every worker should be thinking about safety first,” Acting Buildings Commissioner Thomas Fariello told WNYC, “It’s not just a saying, it’s real.”

The DOB has been roundly criticized for failing to protect the workers in New York’s most dangerous industry. In April, three construction workers died while on the job. In the same month, the DOB delayed implementing new safety regulations for the second time since the law passed City Council in 2017. The city-run agency said it had insufficient resources to draft and enforce the regulations.

Continue reading

The deadliest industry in New York is becoming even more dangerous with injuries caused by construction accidents increasing a hefty 221 percent in the last five years. According to CBS New York, deaths in the construction industry alone increased by 33 percent in the same time period. Just last month, three New York construction workers died while on the job. In SoHo, a worker was crushed by a crane. The other two workers died from falling debris at their worksite.

According to the local news station, there are two primary causes of the increase in workplace injuries. First, New York City is experiencing a construction boom. Gary Labarbera, President of NYTC Building and Construction Trades Council, told CBS News that despite a “busy, robust construction market… there shouldn’t be anywhere near this many fatalities.” The second (and related) reason involves contractors who are “willing to underbid to the job” and then “cut corners everywhere they can find,” says bricklayer Jerry Gozdyra. Unfortunately, these contractors and construction companies often undercut the safety of their workers. “It’s always been a dangerous profession, but deadlines and pressure from when you [have to] get [the work] done sometimes cause you to take risks. If you’re given the time and proper equipment you have a better chance of working safely,” masonry restoration specialist Christine Azzoli told the local news channel.

Continue reading

A new government report on the construction industry shows serious defects in compliance across the state. Released by Senator James Skoufits, he says the report shows that, “Firefighters are going to die. Tenants are going to die if the state and local officials do not start prioritizing code enforcement.” According to the Senator’s ‘bombshell’ report, the problems with regulating the industry are widespread and involve everyone from the executive branch to the local municipalities.

Released in August 2019, the report details serious dangers with the state’s construction industry. According to NBC New York, the report specifically faults:

Continue reading

Amid widespread noncompliance and mounting accidents in New York’s most dangerous industry, City Council ‘tweaked’ its construction safety laws last month. The law originally passed in 2017 in the aftermath of several serious and preventable construction accidents has failed to put a dent in the number of construction worker deaths, which continue to increase each year. The law requires all construction workers in the city to receive at least 30 hours of safety training by Dec. 1 2019, according to City & State New York. By Sept. 1, 2010, the number of training hours required increases to 40 hours. 

The bold and controversial law has largely languished since it passed, according to the newspaper. The Department of Buildings has pushed back the deadline for worker training several times after failing to implement the standards and programs required by the training courses. The government agency says that the City Council has made the problem worse by continually revising the law since 2017. Allegations of widespread fraud have been reported in the news, describing a black market for safety training certificates and online courses that lack adequate identity verification policies. 

Continue reading

New York police went undercover this month to catch speeding drivers in Westchester by posing as highway construction workers. According to CT Post, the police officers disguised themselves and then staked out work zones on I-684 in what they named “Operation Hard Hat.” The ‘operation’ was apparently successful, with almost 50 tickets issued to drivers in just a couple days. The police say the tickets issued to motorists included traffic violations from talking on the phone while driving to speeding. However, the most common citation involved a violation of New York’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to either move out of the lane closest to construction workers or, if that is not possible, slow their vehicle down to a crawl while passing through the work zone.
Under New York law, fines are doubled for motorists when their violation occurs in a work zone. The “work zone trap” set up by New York police in disguise is an increasingly popular way of responding to the increase in car accidents occurring in work zones. Last year, more than 700 crashes in New York occurred in a work zone. These crashes led to 329 injuries and 13 fatalities, according to CT Post. The New York Transportation Commissioner applauded the efforts by Westchester police, saying “The Success of Operation Hard Hat is imperative – it protects our transportation workers and raises awareness to the serious issue of work zone safety.”

Continue reading

The Department of Buildings (DOB) is suing to revoke the license of a contractor allegedly responsible for the death of a construction worker earlier this year in Turtle Bay. According to The New York Daily News, Nelson Salinas was working on scaffolding halfway up a 14-story residential building when a coping stone was knocked loose by rigging used to support the scaffolding. The stone hit Salinas in the head and he was rushed to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center where he died from the injuries

After a full investigation, the DOB says the fault lies with Wlodzimierz Tomczak and is now attempting to revoke his special rigger license over the incident. According to the DOB, Tomczak “did not take proper precautions” and could not produce “multiple inspection records… related to the scaffold setup.” 

Continue reading

New York’s only-one-in-the-country scaffold law is under scrutiny, again. Council Speaker Corey Johnson is hoping to reform the heavily criticized law while overhauling the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the pseudo-independent government agency responsible for the subway and bridges around New York City. According to The New York Post, the scaffold law assigns 100 percent of the liability to owners and contractors for any injury occurring on a construction site, regardless of whether the worker was at fault or not. Proponents of the law describe the dangerous conditions that New York construction workers must operate and say the law incentivizes contractors and companies to create a safe workplace.

Opponents of the law say the law is unnecessarily expensive, driving up the cost of much-needed infrastructure projects across the state. Across the country, construction liability insurance typically averages between 2 to 3 percent of a construction project. In New York, that number is between 7 and 10 percent, according to Lawsuit Reform Alliance Coalition of New York. Johnson said the law eventually makes a construction project 10 times more expensive to insure in New York. Johnson used the MTA’s East Side Access Project, which links the LIRR to Grand Central, as an example. In 2002, liability insurance on the project cost $93 million. The same liability insurance policy now costs taxpayers $584 million each year. Johnson says the Scaffold Law is a major contributor to the increased costs.

Continue reading

Carbon monoxide poisoning injured nine workers at a construction site in Midtown Manhattan last month. According to ABC 7 New York, the FDNY responded to a call at a high-rise residential development in Flatiron when several workers complained of feeling dizzy. When the firefighters arrived, the level of carbon monoxide at the construction site tested around 750 parts-per-a-million. According to the news agency, carbon monoxide is “dangerous” at 10 parts-per-a-million. The entire site was quickly evacuated.

All workers at the site immediately sought medical care and nine were admitted into the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. According to the FDNY, workers were pouring the foundation in a 60 square-foot-area. “It is very difficult to ventilate because there’s only a very small area to enter into the confined space. While the names and injuries suffered by the workers have not been released, witnesses at the scene reported seeing multiple construction workers carried off in stretchers. “We were able to begin IV treatment, cardiac monitoring while our peers on the fire side did all the heavy lifting of pulling them out,” EMS Deputy Chief Kathleen Knuth told ABC’s local affiliate.

Continue reading

Contact Information