After two recent construction worker deaths and a steep rise in construction injuries in New York City, the Department of Buildings is preparing to crack down on those companies not keeping their workers safe.
According to Politico New York, construction related injuries in New York 2015 have risen 34% versus 2014 (283 from 211) and construction related deaths have nearly doubled (11 from 6), resulting in the highest numbers for both categories since at least 2010. The most recent deaths included a 30 year old man falling 30 feet down an elevator shaft and a 25 year old falling 24 stories down an elevator shaft. The latter’s family is now suing the construction companies involved in that project.
The Department of Buildings recently issued a warning to contractors that they would be cracking down on repeat safety offenders. In the press release, the Department announced that it would not only have the authority to enforce many kinds of disciplinary actions, but that it could also issue stop work orders on job sites and revoke contractor licenses.
“…the implementation of new proactive regulatory enforcement efforts through the suspension of a contractor’s registration for receiving multiple immediately hazardous violations over a 24 month period. The disciplinary action – part of an overall strategy of imposing greater accountability and integrity within the construction industry – comes following multiple cases in recent months where unscrupulous construction professionals have cut corners during projects to the detriment of workers or public safety,” the department stated.
In addition to the crack down on repeat offenders, the department has also issued an “Industry Code of Conduct,” which outlines ethics codes, licensing standards, and abuse of privilege. In it, Commissioner Rick Chandler explained industry professionals, “Our Department’s mission is to facilitate safe and compliant development that supports our economy and revitalizes our neighborhoods. Your obligation is to conduct business with the Department in a lawful, honest and professional manner. Together, our work maintains the vibrancy and viability of New York City’s buildings and property.
Construction injuries jumped 34 percent in a year, data shows | Politico New York
Jobsite pressures, such as time crunches and monetary issues can quickly tempt otherwise good people into making some pretty poor decisions. There are also others who use their construction business as a front for other illegal activities. Many people were arrested for a variety of reasons in 2016 and the list below should serve as both a reminder and a warning for those considering making bad decisions.
Last year, a devastating crane collapse killed more than 100 people and injured more than 200 others in Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia. Reports indicated that, at the time of the collapse, the boom was erected approximately 620 feet (190m).
There’s a small, but growing, fear in the construction industry that robots will soon make construction jobs obsolete, but, in all reality, the next logical step is for technology and robotics to first enhance the jobs of human construction workers. There is a lot of money being poured into the industry every day, looking for the next big piece of technology to take over jobsites by storm. A few recent examples are a bionic suit aimed at construction workers and an augmented reality smart hard hat. The next idea may make scaling walls at construction sites extremely easy.
One thing almost everyone agrees on: America’s infrastructure needs fixing.
Another thing most people agree on: No one enjoys the traffic congestion that results from bridge, road, and utility construction work.
As the construction labor shortage rages on throughout the industry, there have been concerns of how overworked employees or undertrained staff may affect job site safety. Although there’s no definitive proof that this problem is causing an increase in construction deaths and injuries, recently released Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows trends pointing in the wrong direction.
Trenches are a construction jobsite hazard that happen on nearly every construction site involving dirt work, but, all too often their dangers are underestimated. In fact, trench related deaths in 2016 have more than doubled as compared to 2015. There’s no excuse for allowing a trench related death to happen, but it’s rare that job site supervision suffers criminal charges after one occurs. After the death of a 22 year old New York construction worker, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office took a hard stance against those responsible and announced formally sentenced the on-site foreman last week.
A large focus of the construction industry, especially in recent years, is jobsite safety. Many large companies have significant resources set aside specifically for safety, but, unfortunately, that may be impossible for many small and medium sized construction companies to handle. As of the first quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there are over 768,000 construction companies currently operating in the private industry and over 6.7 million construction workers between them. That’s a lot of companies and workers to keep safe throughout the year.
Trench collapse deaths are easily preventable. I’ll say it again: trench collapse deaths are easily preventable. So if they’re preventable, how do they continue to happen every year? Ignorance to safety rules, lack of supervision, pressures of time and money, and sometimes, outright laziness are all factors in trench related deaths and injuries. I’ve been on too many jobsites in my relatively young construction career that have extremely poor procedures for working in trenches and I’ve gotten every excuse in the book. The vast majority don’t even understand the basic requirements. At 4 feet deep, you need to provide a means of egress, at 5 feet deep you need proper protective systems, and keep soil and other materials 2 feet away from the edge of the trench. Those are the basics, everyone should know them.
One of the challenges with construction is determining how your work can and will affect the existing conditions surrounding your job site. That’s why it’s increasingly important to not only perform proper due diligence procedures, but also react to the findings. That, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen and could potentially be what caused a massive sinkhole in Fukuoka, Japan, last week.
Every year, an average of 35 construction workers are killed by trench collapses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With proper shoring, benching, or sloping, each of these deaths is easily preventable. Generally, any trench that exceeds 5 feet in height needs to be properly protected, as the weight of soil can reach up to 3,000 pounds per cubic yard. For more on OSHA's trench safety guidelines, click here.