NYC Buildings Department Pushes ‘Zero Tolerance’ Crackdown at Construction Sites

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has been conducting citywide crackdowns to curb construction fatalities, and it’s produced more than 3,600 safety violations and nearly 1,500 stop-work orders. According to a report in the New York Daily News, the “Zero Tolerance” program was initiated following seven construction fatalities in the first five months of 2021 and conducted sweeps at about 7,500 building construction sites since its June 1 launch with not a single fatal workplace construction accident reported in the city since then.

According to city officials, the inspections done during the campaign were in addition to the thousands of regular enforcement visits conducted throughout the year. Seven workers were killed in construction site accidents citywide before this program commenced, including three workers in the month of May alone.

Safety Violations and Stop-Work Orders

One of those workers was a 32-year-old man who plunged down a sixth-floor elevator shaft in Long Island City, Queens on May 22. That was five days before a 49-year-old construction worker fell to his death from the roof of a bank in Flatbush, Brooklyn, while doing demolition work. City officials at the time described these deaths as “tragic, senseless and entirely avoidable.”

Under the “Zero Tolerance” program, Manhattan was hit with the most stop-work orders at a count of 545, while Brooklyn outpaced the other boroughs by racking up 1,252 safety violations. City inspectors visited 7,443 new buildings and issued 1,499 stop-work orders. Authorities reported 425 stop-work orders in Brooklyn, 339 in Queens, 144 in the Bronx and 46 on Staten Island. Many of these shutdowns were rescinded after contractors corrected the unsafe conditions and the sites passed a follow-up visit by DOB inspectors.

The seven deaths this year are just one less than the number of construction accident fatalities for all of 2020 when non-essential construction activity was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. The number of deaths in 2018 and 2019 were 12 respectively. DOB’s Construction Safety Report states that a majority of the injuries at construction sites are the result of workers falling due to improper harnessing while working on higher floors.

Officials say they expect to continue the “Zero Tolerance” with unannounced inspections at larger construction sites, a new push to enact safety legislation and interventions at sites that are found to have serious safety violations.

Know Your Rights

A large number of construction workers such as ironworkers, steelworkers, carpenters, masons, laborers or electricians work from an elevation or height by using scaffolds, platforms, ladders etc. Worksites are required under state and federal laws to have safety measures in place to prevent workers from falling off overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes or shafts.

Workers in New York are protected by New York’s Scaffolding Law (Section 240 of the New York Labor Code), which requires contractors, owners and their agents to be responsible for providing necessary equipment such as scaffolds, ladders, hoists, stays, irons, ropes, blocks braces and other devices to keep workers safe from fall-related accidents. Under this section of the labor code, workers injured in scaffolding accidents have the ability to bring civil actions against the general contractor and property owner/manager, etc. responsible for the safety of the jobsite.

Workers who have been injured in scaffolding accidents can seek workers’ compensation benefits from their employer. In addition, they may be able to file a third-party claim for substantial money damages and thus have two sources of compensation. Such claims are filed against parties other than the employers or co-workers including, but not limited to, general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, etc. In cases where a worker dies from injuries suffered on the job, surviving family members may seek death benefits through workers’ compensation and/or file a wrongful death claim against the responsible third parties.

Contacting an Experienced Lawyer

If you have suffered injuries in a construction site accident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you.

Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker (an undocumented immigrant) who was injured on the job – one of the highest construction case settlements in New York that year. Our law firm also recovered $3,000,000 for a man who fell and suffered two broken legs when he walked into an open elevator shaft. Also, one of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases.

Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury and/or medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.

Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:

1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES

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