More Safety Harness Use Urged to Reduce Construction Accidents

workersafety Gilbane Building Co., a construction contractor, is calling for all workers on job sites in New York state to wear safety harnesses when they are working above 6 feet to help prevent tragic construction accidents. According to an article in Crain’s New York, company officials say that this policy of theirs has prevented 20 workers on the firm’s sites from potentially fatal falls in just over the last five years. The construction contractor that is currently working on city projects such as Hudson Yards has an internal policy mandating each worker to hook into a safety harness when more than 6 feet above the ground.

This policy goes beyond what the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) currently requires. Gilbane is among a few construction firms that have internal protocols that are more stringent than OSHA’s. Federal regulations, for example, allow steelworkers and ironworkers to operate up to 25 feet high without hooking into a safety harness. When workers or laborers are climbing a scaffold above 10 feet, OSHA rules require them to use only one attachment that the workers would unhook and reattach to higher tier-off points as they ascend.
Increase in Fatal Construction Accidents
Last month marked Workers Memorial Day. As the city paid its homage to fallen construction workers, we also learned that construction fatalities in New York City are at their highest. With the construction industry booming once again, worker injuries as well as the number of fatal incidents are climbing as well. In the last calendar year (2015), 12 workers died on the city’s construction sites, according to the New York City Department of Buildings. That number is up from eight in 2014. The total has not been so high since the previous construction boom in 2009 when 19 workers died.
The number of injuries at construction sites has also increased to 472 in 2015, twice as many as in 2014 when 237 workers were injured and three times as many as in 2011. During the previous periods when construction was booming, 121 were injured in 2007 and 178 in 2008. The city is attributing this increase in numbers to more rigorous inspections that are catching construction accidents, which would not have been reported previously. In February, the Department of Buildings also announced harsher fines and stepped up enforcement by adding 100 new inspectors.
The Importance of Worker Safety
There is no question that worker safety must be enforced. While working in the construction industry comes with certain risks, a number of injuries and tragic fatalities we see on our worksites each year are those that may have been prevented. Oversight on the part of contractors and sub-contractors and lack of proper job and safety training for workers are some of the reasons why these types of accidents occur. The lack of safety equipment, particularly fall safety equipment, can also be particularly dangerous because falls are the leading cause of construction accident deaths.
Compensation for Workers and Families
Workers who have been injured in construction accidents can seek workers’ compensation benefits that usually cover medical expenses and a portion of wages lost as the worker is recovering from his injuries. In addition, workers may be able to file what is known as a third-party claim for significant money damages and have two cases for recovering compensation. A third-party claim is filed against a party other than the employer. Examples of third parties include, but are not limited to, general contractors, sub-contractors, property owners and/or property managers, etc.
Families of deceased workers also undergo significant economic hardship because they often end up losing a beloved family member who was also their sole breadwinner or primary wage earner. In such cases where a worker is killed on the job, families may be able to seek death benefits, and depending on the circumstances of the case, file a wrongful death claim as well.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured 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. For over 49 years, our skilled accident attorneys have established a proven track record of helping injured victims get fair compensation for their losses. 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.
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 cases in 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.
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1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
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