Construction workers have taken to social media to express concerns about lacking protections in the workplace against the coronavirus, which has left at least 918 people dead and more than 38,000 infected in New York state. According to a report in The New York Daily News, workers are using social media here in the same way doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines of the epidemic are and using #constructionworkers to alert viewers. Some construction workers are deemed “essential workers” during the COVID-19 epidemic, particularly when it comes to infrastructural projects. However, workers say there isn’t enough soap and sanitizer to go around and that worksites are definitely not following social distancing measures.
Lack of Protections
One worker posted on Twitter that authorities who otherwise enforce construction safety codes are allowing thousands of people to go to packed building sites each day, increasing the chances of spreading the virus. Governor Andrew Cuomo last week banned nonessential construction. But several sites around the city are still open. Under the new directive, most residential and commercial construction is suspended. But, some crucial work, including on infrastructure, hospitals and affordable housing, along with emergency repairs will be permitted.
The New York Daily News reports that before Cuomo’s announcement, construction workers were going to jobsites with almost no protection. There are photos on social media that show workers not wearing masks and in elevators packed closer than a subway car.
Industry leaders are calling the issue a “delicate balance” because the city’s infrastructure is vital during this time of crisis with first responders and healthcare professionals depending on functioning buildings, bridges and roads. New COVID-19 construction guidelines include increasing spatial separation, not sharing tools and equipment, and working in smaller groups.
The city’s union contractors together with the real estate industry have worked on implementing heightened and enhanced safety protocols that protect workers from common sources of infection, union leaders said. But construction workers say anyone who has ever worked on a construction site would know that social distancing can be extremely difficult at a construction site. For example, many tasks require a minimum two-man team.
What the Law States
There are strong federal, state and local laws that give workers the right to be able to operate in a space that is healthy and free of hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1970 and was signed by President Richard Nixon on December 29, 1970, aims to ensure that employers provide employees with an environment free from recognized hazards, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions. General construction companies, managing agents, building owners, some contractors and sub-contractors have a responsibility to make sure that workers have a safe and healthy environment.
All workers must not only be provided job and safety training in a language they can comprehend, but construction workers also must have personal protective equipment such as fall safety devices (harnesses, safety nets, guardrails, etc.), goggles for eye protection, ear protection, steel-toed boots, hard hats, etc. At a time of a deadly pandemic, workers are also entitled to personal protective equipment that offer safeguards from the virus such as respirator masks, gloves, etc.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
Workers who are injured in construction accidents may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits, which typically cover medical and drug expenses and a portion of lost wages. In addition, workers and their families may be able to file a third-party lawsuit for substantial money damages against a number of parties, and thus have two sources of compensation. Third-party claims are filed against parties other than the employer or co-employees and may include general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, managing agents, construction companies, etc.
If you have suffered injuries in a construction 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. 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 medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been 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
Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com
If you found this article useful, please share it!