Safety in the construction industry is a relative term. On the whole, construction labor jobs are among the more dangerous occupations in the U.S. Every year, workers sustain severe, sometimes life-altering, injuries, and others die in workplace accidents. However, construction workers in Manhattan and the rest of New York have a higher-than-average risk of serious or fatal injuries from an on-the-job accident.
If you are considering working for the construction industry in Manhattan or already do, knowing the area’s industry trends is essential. The knowledge allows you to take necessary measures to protect yourself. You should also know what to do if you get hurt while performing your job.
New York Construction Industry Injury and Fatality Statistics
Compared to the average for the rest of the United States, New York and New York City have higher work-related injury and fatality rates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks injuries and fatalities for the entire state, while the New York Commission for Occupational Safety and Health assesses annual construction site fatalities in N.Y.C. annually and releases a report of its findings.
What Do the Numbers Say About Construction Safety in the State?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported 129,000 on-the-job injuries and illnesses in 2020, down from 140,000 nonfatal workplace injuries in 2019. Of those, the construction industry reported 8,100 injuries in 2019 and 6,700 in 2020. Of the goods-producing sectors, manufacturing had a higher number of incidents in both years, while extraction industries had lower numbers.
However, if you look at incidence rates, construction fares slightly better than manufacturing and extraction. In 2019, the incidence rate for the construction industry was 2.2 for every 100 full-time-equivalent workers versus 2.7 for manufacturing and 2.8 for extraction. In 2020, the incidence rate dropped to 2.1 for construction and 2.3 for manufacturing but rose to 3.1 for extraction.
Though dangerous, the construction industry fares better than similarly hazardous sectors for nonfatal injuries and illnesses. On the other hand, the number of fatalities is high. According to N.Y.C.O.S.H., in 2011, 30 workers died from injuries sustained on the job. That number increased to 71 in 2016. After 2016, fatalities declined each year. In 2019, 55 construction workers died; in 2020, 41 lost their lives.
What Do the Numbers Say About Construction Safety in NYC?
The trend for fatal construction site accidents in N.Y.C. takes a different track than it does for the state. While the state saw an annual increase between 2011 and 2016 before decreasing yearly until 2020, N.Y.C. construction fatality incidents rose annually from 2011 to 2014 and then declined until 2017. In 2018 and 2019, the number of fatal injuries increased again before dropping off in 2020. Here’s how the trend looks in the city:
- 2011: 14 deaths
- 2014: 28 fatalities
- 2017: 20 deaths
- 2019: 24 fatalities
- 2020: 13 deaths
The number of fatalities closely mirrors the overall fatality rate in the city, so the increase in deaths between 2017 and 2019 can’t be blamed on a higher number of workers in the city. On the other hand, the incident rate in the state increased from 2019 to 2020, even though the number of deaths declined.
Who Is Most at Risk of a Fatal Construction Site Accident?
In both the state and the Big Apple, those working at non-union sites are at an increased risk of fatal accidents. In 2019 and 2020, N.Y.C.O.S.H. found that more non-union workers than workers had fatal accidents. Within the state in 2019, 78% of construction site fatalities were to non-union workers, while 68% of those in the city were. In 2020, those percentages were 79% for the state and 100% for N.Y.C.
Latino workers are also at a higher risk, with higher percentages of Latinos dying in construction accidents than any other ethnicity. In 2020, 18% of the construction site fatalities were Latino, though those workers make up only 10% of the industry’s workers in the state. In 2020, the percentage of deaths rose to 20.5%, even though Latino workers made up the same percentage of the workforce.
Another correlation is the risk of fatal accidents and contractor compliance with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 100% of the fatalities in 2019 and 97% in 2020 occurred on a worksite where the contractor violated OSHA requirements. OSHA violations are never justified. Nearly every fatal accident in the state in 2019 and 2020 was preventable.
How Does NYC Compare to the US Average?
In 2020, the rate of fatal workplace injuries was higher in N.Y.C. than the national average, and the rate of construction worker deaths was higher in the city than in any other occupation. However, across the U.S., construction workers are at an increased risk of an on-the-job accident that results in injury or fatality.
Steps To Take After a Construction Site Accident
If you sustain injuries from a construction site accident, the steps you take afterward can significantly impact your options for compensation for your losses. Your ability to recover damages also depends on your occupation and what caused the accident. However, taking the following steps helps protect your rights and improves your chances of receiving adequate compensation.
1. Ensure Your Physical Safety
A construction site accident can result in severe injuries and fatalities. Falls account for the highest number of deaths in the construction industry, while contact with objects and equipment leads to most nonfatal injuries. The first step you need to take after an accident is to ensure you are not at risk for further harm. Scan the area for additional hazards and move to a safer location if necessary.
2. Document the Scene
Take photos and videos of the scene if possible. Be sure to include closeup and broad views. You may not notice some aspect of the environment that provides critical evidence in determining the cause of the accident. You should also take photos of your injuries while at the worksite to corroborate a claim that the accident caused your injuries.
3. Get Contact Information for Witnesses
If there are witnesses, ask for their names and contact information. Even if they are your coworkers, obtaining the information at the site is a good idea.
4. Notify Appropriate Individuals
Notify the appropriate individuals of the accident. If you are an employee, let your supervisor or contractor know about the incident and your injuries. If you are an independent contractor, notify the contractor overseeing the project if there is one. You may also want to inform the building owner or project manager.
5. Seek Medical Attention
If your injuries are severe, call emergency services. Even if your injuries don’t warrant a trip to the emergency room, get medical attention as soon as possible. Some injuries may not have obvious symptoms until hours or days later. Employees have a right to workers’ compensation, but you must go to a physician approved by the Workers’ Compensation Board, except in an emergency.
6. Contact a Construction Accident Lawyer
As soon as you are able, contact a construction accident lawyer. An attorney can help you understand your rights and determine your options for recovering your losses. At Cellino Law, we have the knowledge and experience to assess your case to ascertain whether you have a workers’ compensation claim or a third party is at fault for your accident. You have rights. We want to be sure they are protected. Contact us today for a free, no-risk initial consultation.
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