Construction workers make up about 4 percent of the U.S. workforce but account for more than 20 percent of all worker deaths. Nearly half of construction worker deaths involve falls.
Historically, New York City construction fatality rates have been higher than national construction fatality rates. In 2016, New York construction deaths hit a 16-year high. Falls are the leading cause of New York construction deaths.
Even if a construction worker’s fall is not deadly, it can cause serious injuries that force the worker to lose time from work and incur financial hardship. Fortunately, New York State’s Scaffold Law protects construction workers by holding building site owners and employers fully liable for worker deaths and injuries resulting from unsafe conditions at elevated worksites.
New Reports Highlight Construction Worker Fall Risks, Lack of Fall Protection
A recent analysis of data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) looked at work-related construction fatalities between 1982 and 2015 and found that:
- 325 out of 768 (42 percent) of the fatalities were fall-related
- Of the 325 fatal falls, 218 were from less than 30 feet, while 107 were from 30 feet or higher
- 54 percent of the workers killed did not have access to a personal fall arrest system (PFAS)
In New York, there has been an alarming increase in construction worker fatalities due to falls, as noted in Deadly Skyline, a study published by the New York Committee for Occupational Health and Safety (NYCOSH). The study reports that:
- New York City has the nation’s highest fatal occupational injury rate in construction
- The percentage of construction fatalities due to falls has been trending upwards
- The most common safety violations involve failure by employers to take fall prevention measures
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that construction employers provide their workers with protection from falls at elevations of 6 feet or higher. While New York City’s construction boom may partly explain the rise in construction injuries and deaths, inadequate safety measures and a lack of safety equipment are frequently to blame for construction worker falls.
Liability for Construction Worker Falls
NYCOSH says that New York State’s Labor Law §240—the so-called “Scaffold Law”—must be preserved in order to protect construction workers from unsafe conditions. The law has been under attack by opponents who say it increases insurance premiums.
Under the law, workers who are injured in falls from an elevated worksite can collect workers’ compensation benefits (which are awarded regardless of fault) as well as litigate against at-fault third parties who contributed to their injuries. The law imposes absolute liability on the construction companies, property owners, and/or contractors who are responsible for maintaining safe work conditions. In other words, even if a worker injured in a fall acted negligently, they can still recover injury compensation through a lawsuit.
Get legal assistance from a seasoned New York City construction accident lawyer
For more than three decades, Evan W. Kohn has stood up for construction accident victims in New York City. If you or a loved one was injured at a construction site, call our offices at 718-866-3951 or contact us online for a free case review. Se habla español.