NYC Construction Injuries, Fatalities Increased
The New York City Department of Buildings recently released its annual New York City Construction Safety Report, providing an analysis of building construction safety trends in 2022.
The annual report provides an overview of Department-collected data to increase transparency within the construction industry, while highlighting the importance of safety regulations in the City’s Construction Codes.
The 2022 report shows increased building construction activity over the previous two years throughout the city, which then correlated with modest increases in worker incidents, injuries and fatalities.
According to the information reported by the DOB, building construction-related incidents in New York City are up for the second straight year, increasing 9.7% compared to 2021. The DOB reports that 554 injuries occurred in 2022; however, this is significantly lower than the 759 worker injuries that occurred in 2018 where there was a peak in injury data.
The number of injured workers on building construction sites represents less than 1% of the total number of building construction workers in the city, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands, working on close to 40,000 work sites across the city.
“Keeping New Yorkers aware of the state of the construction industry in our City is a critical component of our mission to improve public safety,” said DOB Acting Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik, P.E.
“For the second year in a row, worker injuries and fatalities at building construction sites have increased. While these incidents are occurring much less frequently than in years past, we are ringing the alarm that this year’s report highlights a new trend that must be reversed.”
At the Department of Buildings we believe that safety and accountability go hand in hand.— NYC Buildings (@NYC_Buildings) April 10, 2023
This month we released our annual Construction Safety Report to mark NYC's construction industry trends and to highlight our efforts to maintain the highest safety standards in the country. pic.twitter.com/KKSfmfaiqF
Other notable highlights included:
The department notes that the 2022 numbers illustrate that while construction fatalities can happen on worksites of any size, most fatalities occurred on larger and more complex projects that are required under city regulations to meet additional site safety requirements. As a result, the DOB reportedly conducted 55% more unannounced monitoring inspections on these larger sites in 2022 than in 2021.
The main driver of worker fatalities and injuries on building construction sites continued to be falls. Falls were also the top violation on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety standards for fiscal year 2022.
The full report can be found here.
Previous Safety Report
Last year, in April, the DOB reported that its building construction-related incidents had declined, even as construction activity had rebounded from a pandemic-related low in 2020. According to the information reported by the DOB, building construction-related incidents in New York City dropped another 10% compared to 2020 and over 40% since 2018.
For 2021, the DOB reported the following: 712 incidents (796 in 2020); 505 injuries (502 in 2020); and nine fatalities (eight in 2020). In 2018 and 2019, those numbers only increased.
The report also noted on the total permits issued in 2021 compared to 2020, as well as new construction floor area by square feet. In its 2021 findings, the DOB reported that permits increased from 147,760 to 168,423 and that new construction area increased from 32,939,642 to 42,925,470, respectively.
Safety and New York
In recent years, New York City passed Local Law 196, which, among other things, required increased safety training for construction workers.
Introduced in May 2018, a safety training rule was finalized in New York City—a clarification of Local Law 196, which was signed in October 2017 by former mayor Bill de Blasio. At the time, the law dictated that by March 2018, workers were required to have at least 10 hours of safety training and by December 2018, workers were required to have 30 hours of training. (Supervisors were always mandated with 62 hours.)
By November, the June extension was used and, beyond that, workers would also be required to take an additional 10 hours of training by Sept. 1, 2020.
In April 2019, New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., chair of the city’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, promised to ensure Local Law 196 was put into effect, after the city suffered from a chain of construction worker deaths, some occurring within the same week.
However, the following month, a second extension was granted for the increased safety training requirements as administered by OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 to Dec. 1, 2019. The change also granted the Department of Buildings with the option to extend training a third time, so long as the agency announced its decision by Sept. 1. No changes to the 40-hour requirement due by Sept. 1, 2020, were reported.
In June 2021, DOB’s former Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca announced that the DOB would be mobilizing teams of inspectors across the city’s five boroughs to perform safety sweeps of the “larger and more complex” construction sites.
The announcement arrived just weeks after three construction worker fatalities were reported in the span of two weeks in separate incidents. According to La Rocca, while performing these zero-tolerance sweeps, the inspectors were to issue enforcement actions if they observed any safety violations and would shut down the sites if they found any serious safety lapses.
A month after the teams were launched, the DOB reported that 322 construction sites had been shut down for hazardous conditions. The DOB was also reported to have issued more than 1,129 violations for safety issues and non-compliance issues. In total, its inspectors visited more than 2,100 sites that qualified under the “larger and complex” umbrella.
Then, in October, La Rocca announced the results of the Department’s citywide “Zero Tolerance” construction safety enforcement campaign, revealing that DOB inspectors had issued over 3,600 violations and 1,499 stop-work orders since June 1.
At that point, DOB inspectors had conducted sweeps at approximately 7,500 building construction work sites throughout all five boroughs to ensure that proper safeguards were in place to prevent worker falls and other related construction site injuries.
According to reports, the construction work site inspections conducted during this three-month campaign were in addition to the hundreds of thousands of regular development and enforcement inspections performed by DOB inspectors throughout the city year-round.