There is a famous 1930s photograph of New York under the title "Lunch atop a Skyscraper." This mythical black-and-white image was taken during the construction of the Rockefeller Center in the big city and managed to portray 11 construction workers having lunch while sitting on a beam with their feet dangling 260 meters above the ground.
Over the years, many analysts of historical photographs have detected that the workers portrayed in this photograph did not have the necessary security in their workplace. That was 1930, the time of the Great Depression. The workers have no safety system or harnesses, so the photo is a true reflection of the labor situation in the United States during the Great Depression, when people were willing to accept any job, no matter how precarious.
Although almost 100 years have passed since that photograph was taken, and workers' conditions have undoubtedly improved, there are still cases of negligence on the part of construction companies in New York towards their staff.
Can you imagine what could happen if a worker falls from a height of 200 meters to the ground? Do you think he would live to tell the tale? Most likely not. And whose responsibility would it be? What would happen to the victim's family? What kind of investigation would be carried out to determine what exactly happened? Could it have been prevented? Are there laws that defend the worker and his family against these types of terrible events? These are some of the questions that our professionals at The Ward Law have sought to answer during all these years of experience.
Construction site fall accidents are among the most dangerous of all. Because they involve borderline situations in which those involved will struggle between life and death because of the force of the impact. Even when safety measures have been taken satisfactorily, sometimes great heights are enough to defeat prevention; in many cases, the fatal outcome is inevitable, although in others, with a little more caution, it could have been avoided.
Let’s explore a little more about these types of accidents. Learn about their causes and how they could be prevented, review situations where there is negligence on the part of the employer or the worker, mention a little about proper work equipment, and share valuable information so that our Queens community can learn more about their rights as construction workers.
In this way, we contribute to the awareness of these issues and contribute our grain of sand in reducing these types of events. Join us to learn more about fall accidents on construction sites.
Construction Site Fall Accident Overview
Construction sites are among the most dangerous places to work in New York due to the high risk of fall accidents there.
Construction-related fatalities made up about 20% of all workplace fatalities in 2019, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), underscoring how urgent it is to address fall accidents on construction sites.
The severity of the problem and its effect on worker safety was highlighted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 record of 880 workplace fatalities brought on by slips, trips, and falls. The high frequency of fall accidents in the construction sector emphasizes the critical requirement for everyone’s safety measures to shield employees from potential risks.
New York Construction Site Safety Regulations
It is important to take into account the regulations that construction companies in New York must follow to promote the prevention of this type of event. In addition, as an employee of one of these companies, knowing about these regulations will help you identify whether or not they are being complied with in your workplace.
ToTo ensure safe development, the New York City Department of Buildings works to hold the construction industry responsible for the safety of workers and the general public. These safety precautions are described in Chapter 33 of the NYC Construction Codes.
There are new safety training requirements, a smoking ban on construction sites, registration with the Department of Contractors for contractors performing specific types of construction, demolition, and concrete work, as well as uniform color coding for sprinklers and standpipes.
In order to make sure the work is being done at these sites safely, in compliance with the Code, and with the welfare of the public at the forefront, daily inspections of high and low-rise construction sites, demolitions, pre-demolitions, and excavations, sidewalk sheds, scaffolds of all kinds, and alterations are conducted.
Here's an overview of specific key safety regulations that apply to New York
- The legal obligations of construction site owners, contractors, and employers to provide a safe workplace for employees are outlined in New York Labor Law Sections 200, 240, and 241. The "Scaffold Law," also known as Section 240, focuses on safeguarding workers from gravity-related dangers like falls from heights.
- OSHA Standards: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets forth federal guidelines that construction sites must adhere to. OSHA's Fall Protection standards mandate the use of proper equipment, such as harnesses and guardrails, when working at heights above six feet.
- Guardrails and Fall Arrest Systems: New York's regulations require the installation of guardrails on scaffolds, platforms, and open edges where workers could potentially fall. Fall arrest systems, including lifelines and anchor points, must also be provided to prevent falls and minimize injury severity.
- Proper Training: It is mandatory for construction workers to receive adequate instruction on how to use safety equipment, prevent falls, and handle emergencies. Workers must be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely navigate potential fall hazards, according to employers.
- Regular Inspections: Regular construction site inspections are essential for spotting and quickly addressing safety hazards. Employers and contractors can identify potential fall risks and take appropriate action to prevent accidents by conducting routine assessments.
- Maintenance of Safety Equipment: harnesses, lanyards, and guardrails must be properly maintained and regularly checked for flaws. Equipment that has been damaged should be replaced right away to avoid breakdowns that could cause fall accidents.
Collectively, these rules highlight the significance of fostering a culture of safety within the construction sector, where adherence to rules and preventative measures are crucial. Construction sites can significantly lower the likelihood of fall accidents and safeguard the well-being of workers in Queens and throughout New York by strictly adhering to these regulations.
Common Causes of Fall Accidents at Construction Sites:
Although not all common causes can be identified, with more than 30 years of experience in fall accidents on construction sites at The Ward Law Group, we have identified the main ones.
These can range from negligence on the part of the company in not providing the necessary equipment, not properly assessing whether the weather conditions for the job are appropriate, or an error on the part of the worker in being overconfident and not foreseeing that it was not the right time to perform the activity he or she was engaged in. It is not always possible to identify an exact cause, but it is possible to draw up a map of possible causes, which should be used for prevention work, for talks to workers, and to be aware of the disastrous consequences that such an event could have.
Some of the most common causes we have identified are as follows:
- Lack of Adequate Fall Protection: When working at heights, there is a significantly increased risk of accidents if workers are not given the necessary fall protection equipment, such as lifelines and harnesses.
- Unsafe Scaffolding: Poorly constructed or unsteady scaffolds are a major contributing factor to falls. Serious accidents may result from inadequate guardrails, unstable platforms, and missing planking.
- Unsecured Ladders: Falls can occur when ladders are not secured or are installed improperly. Ladder safety and stability should be covered in worker training.
- Slippery Surfaces: Construction sites frequently have uneven ground and surfaces that are vulnerable to becoming slick from bad weather or spilled materials, increasing the risk of a fall.
- Lack of Training: Workers who are not adequately instructed in fall prevention methods and safety procedures are more likely to be involved in mishaps.
- Misuse of Equipment: Using harnesses and guardrails improperly can give the impression that you are safe while actually putting your safety at risk.
- Failure to Inspect Equipment: Failure to conduct regular checks on safety equipment, such as lifelines and harnesses, may result in the use of faulty equipment and accidents.
- Lack of Warning Signs: Workers may be caught off guard if there are no warning signs indicating potential fall hazards, such as open holes or uneven surfaces.
- Open floor openings without guardrails or proper covers put workers at risk of falling through gaps.
- Weather Conditions: Rain, snow, ice, or wind can create hazardous conditions that increase the likelihood of slips, trips, and falls.
In order to address these frequent causes of fall accidents, proactive actions must be taken, including the implementation of stringent safety protocols, thorough training, regular equipment inspections, and ensuring that the appropriate safety gear is worn consistently. Recognizing these risks and taking preventative measures will help construction sites significantly lower the risk of fall accidents and put worker safety first.
Types of Fall Injuries at Construction Sites:
Although due to the severity of the accident or the height at which the fall occurred, many times, the consequences can be fatal and result in the death of those involved. There are also cases in which it is possible to survive but with very serious injuries or long-term consequences. At The Ward Law, we have seen almost all types of cases, we have spoken with doctors who specialize in these types of injuries, and we have been able to comprehensively address a solution for these types of cases. Surviving a fall from a construction site is almost a miracle.
Therefore, the possible consequences must be evaluated, which at first glance are often not entirely evident, as there may be internal bleeding or blows to the head that show consequences over the years. In order to evaluate how to prevent each one of them, we have grouped the most common causes.
- Fractures: Broken bones from falls, such as those in the arms, legs, wrists, and ribs, are common. Both simple and complex fractures can result from striking a hard surface from a height.
- Even from relatively short falls, head injuries are a serious concern. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), concussions, and contusions can happen and have both short- and long-term effects.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: Falls may cause spinal cord injuries, potentially leading to partial or full paralysis. The severity of these injuries depends on factors such as the height of the fall and the angle of impact.
- Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains, and bruises, can be caused by falls. Even though these wounds might appear less serious, they can still be very painful and restrict movement.
- Internal Injuries: The impact of a fall can result in internal injuries such as internal bleeding and organ damage. Because these injuries might not be immediately obvious, a careful medical evaluation is crucial.
- Lacerations and Abrasions: Falls can result in cuts, scrapes, and abrasions. While not always serious, these injuries increase the risk of infection if left untreated.
- Joint dislocations can occur as a result of a fall's force, which can result in discomfort, a restricted range of motion, and possibly even long-term joint problems.
- Falls can cause neck injuries, which can range from whiplash to more serious conditions that affect the cervical spine and surrounding tissues.
- Shoulder injuries: Landing on an outstretched arm during a fall can cause dislocations, fractures, and strains to the shoulder.
- Emotional Trauma: Fall accidents can result in emotional trauma in addition to physical injuries, which can result in anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Call the Ward Law Group now, and do not face this hard situation alone!
We know that in tragic moments like the ones you have had to go through as a result of this accident, sometimes words are superfluous. From The Ward Law, we want to convey our desire to help you. We do not want you to face this hard road alone. With the support of our experts, your recovery will be easier.
We have seen hundreds of cases; in which the victims thought they had lost everything. However, with our legal advice, our experience, and our human approach oriented to serving others, things got better faster than we thought. Finally, the necessary compensation was obtained to make up for these unfortunate events.
Don't think twice. You should not suffer in vain. With our help, you will regain that smile that no one should take away from you, and you will be able to enjoy a happy ending after a bitter moment.