5 construction workers died and 240 were injured in New York City between June 1st and October 31st. Last year during the same period, 6 workers died and 275 were injured in NYC construction accidents.
After a slow down in March, April and May related to the Covid-19 lock down, the construction industry resumed work in the city. Out of the 5 fatalities, 3 occurred in Brooklyn and 2 in Manhattan. 3 of them were falls. Fall is the number one cause of fatalities on construction sites in New York and in the US.
- On June 20, at a construction site located at 1154 39th Street, in Brooklyn, an unlicensed worker who was installing new junction boxes electrocuted himself and succumbed to his injuries.
- On July 16, a cornice collapsed onto a suspended scaffold and a sidewalk shed, killing one construction worker and seriously injuring 3 others at a site located at 136 East 36th Street in Manhattan.
- 4 days later, at 30 Kent Street in Brooklyn, a worker fell from the 10th floor to the second one, killing himself after he stepped onto a slab of formwork where the shoring was removed. The site was issued a stop work order and 10 safety violations.
- On August 20, also in Brooklyn, another construction worker fell to his death at a site located on 1465 56th Street. DOB Inspectors found that the area where the worker was at the time of the accident didn’t have proper rails installed.
- On October 18, at a construction site located at 1 Wall Street, a security guard leaned against a guardrail that wasn’t proprely maintained. The guardrail broke and the man fell sixty feet. He died from his injuries.
All the above fatalities were preventable and would not have occurred if the contractors had followed the safety protocols.
The majority of the workers who were injured were working on Manhattan construction sites. While most of them were of diverse nature and classified as “others”, the second most important category of injuries were injuries sustained by workers after they fell.
Construction accidents injuries and deaths by type
One worker was injured in an excavation and soil work accident at 85 Columbia Street in Manhattan. No fatalities were reported for this type of accident. The worker was hit by a piece of timber that split in two while it was hammered down by an excavator. The accident could have been avoided if the contractor had communicated the scope, hazards and risk concerns for the work during a pre-shift meeting and provided adequate protection and safety measures during the operations.
Globally excavation and soil work accident injuries have been on a declining trends in New York City over the last few years.
Material falls killed one worker in July (see above) and injured 12 others between June and October . In July, two pedestrians were injured by falling fences. Also in July, a worker lost consciousness for a minute after being hit by a metal pipe that fell during the installation of a curtain wall. A worker suffered a broken toe after a piece of rebar fell on his foot. A worker unintentionally sprayed concrete onto his face when cleaning a concrete hose. Two workers were hurt by falling debris while on a scaffolding.
While fatalities related to fall of material are slightly on the rise over the last 5 years, the injuries related to fall of material recorded a significant decline during the last two years.
Injuries sustained in construction accidents related to mechanical or construction equipment failure also declined significantly over the last 2 years. Under the period under review, from June 1st, to October 31st 2020, only 1 worker was injured in this type of accident in July in Brooklyn. The worker was an excavator operator who suffered minor injury after his machine flipped over and fell into the basement after a joist gave way.
There were no fatalities and only one injury from construction accidents related to scaffold, shed, fence or shoring installation between June 1st and October 31st compared to 6 a year ago for the same period of time.
Fall injuries and deaths remained high with 3 workers dying in fall accidents and 63 getting injured in fall accidents. Many cases are trips and falls resulting in minor injuries especially when setting up scaffolds or sidewalk sheds. Falls from ladders are also common and usually result in more serious injuries. Fall from heights are the most dangerous and can result in critical injuries and deaths.
All other accidents that do not relate to the above categories are classified as other. These accidents are often non critical injuries sustained in day to day construction operations such as stuck fingers, lacerations, cuts, bruises, back pain from lifting too heavy loads, etc… They represent a significant share of the total of all categories of construction accidents.
While construction accidents injuries and deaths during the summer and the fall of 2020 have been lower than during the summer and fall of 2019. it is difficult to know if the factors are an increase in safety or a decrease in activity related to the Covid-19 pandemic.