Between 2005 and 2015 claims related to people injured in construction accidents related to falling bricks or other debris in New York City have been decreasing by more than half. This decline is mostly related to the city creating stricter and stricter laws to protect New Yorkers from construction accidents. Among the laws enacted by the city, one them requires the erection of sidewalk sheds to protect pedestrians from falling debris. According to a recent article in Crains, there are now 9000 sheds all over the city compared to 3,500 in 2003. Some of these sheds can remain for years as some building owners find it cheaper to pay a fine and keep the shed rather than paying to renovate the facade of their buildings. Some New Yorkers are complaining that the sheds not only cut off sunlight, create a safety hazard and hurt businesses but also accumulate garbage and serve as a shelter for loiterers. The need for sidewalk sheds or overhead protection, as they are also known at active construction sites in New York is critical to the safety of both workers and the public. The comment in the article that, “And developers may not be inclined to spend on nicer sheds because of the growing cost of settling lawsuits brought under New York state Labor Law 240/241, better known as the scaffold law. The statute holds building owners and contractors 100% liable for any gravity-related accident in which they are at least partially at fault,” misses the point. If it were not for these statutes there would be thousands of serious injuries and fatalities each year in NYC, since to cut costs many construction companies mostly on non-union jobs would cut costs and not be inclined to have any sheds. which was the case when the Labor Law was not strictly enforced. With regard to building owners who install sheds rather than performing needed facade renovation work, the City must start to actively track the issuance of shed permits. An owner should not be issued a permit and fail to commence construction within 90 days of issuance. Escalating fines should be levied against the owner for failing to commence construction. Further, the City must start to ease the antiquated process of filing and approving construction permits. Although it is a difficult situation one must remember that Safety comes first.
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