New York City Targets Unsafe Construction Sites

On behalf of Pat Crispi at Keogh Crispi PC

As part of the New York City Department of Buildings' ninth annual Construction Safety Week celebrated April 29 through May 3, 2013, the Department conducted a two-month-long safety check of the construction sites in the city. The city issued hundred of citations, revealing serious dangers for construction workers.

Construction site safety campaign

The Department of Buildings named the targeted safety inspection project Operation: Low Rise. Department officials inspected 920 low-rise construction sites located throughout New York City. Officials issued 879 Environmental Control Board violations for such issues as missing guardrails and failure to obtain proper permits for the work the construction company was doing. The fines associated with these citations amounted to over $954,000.

Threats to workers' safety

Department inspectors also issued partial Stop Work orders at 75 construction sites and full Stop Work orders at 34 sites. Inspectors issue Stop Work orders when the conditions at a construction site pose an immediate and serious threat to workers' safety. Some common reasons for Stop Work orders that inspectors encountered during Operation: Low Rise included:

  • Missing work permits
  • Missing fire extinguishers
  • Missing or faulty guardrails and handrails
  • Failure to protect building surrounding the site

Inspectors focused particular attention on enforcing unprotected openings at constructions sites and improper c-joist construction, as those were contributing factors in the deaths of two construction workers at a Brooklyn construction site in 2012. The Department also issued educational fliers, printed in English, Russian and Spanish, detailing how construction workers should conduct themselves when working near unprotected openings and installing lightweight steel c-joists to ensure safety.

Employer responsibilities

The Occupational Safety and Health Act lays out several obligations that employers have with respect to workplace safety. The law requires employers take several steps to help provide safe workplaces for employees, including:

  • Examining worksites to ensure they meet OSHA safety standards
  • Providing employees with proper tools and equipment necessary for their jobs
  • Maintaining tools and equipment to make sure they are in proper working order
  • Warning employees of potential worksite hazards through signs, posters, codes or labels
  • Conducting safety training for employees in easily understandable language

When employers fail to meet their obligations to make workplaces safe for employees, tragic accidents can happen. A number of New York City construction companies are not meeting their duties, as the results of Operation: Low Rise demonstrates. Employers who let unsafe conditions persist at construction sites need to be held accountable when their negligence harms employees. If you have been injured while working at a construction site, speak with a skilled construction worker injury attorney who can help you recover for your losses.