By Scott Etkin
Late last month, a 36-year-old construction worker fell to his death while installing netting on scaffolding on the 15th floor of 263 West End Avenue at W. 72nd Street. This was one of four construction-worker fatalities at building sites throughout the city in November and December, 2022, according to a press release from the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB).
In response to these tragedies, DOB announced a new winter construction safety campaign. All of the approximately 40,000 permitted work sites in the city, regardless of size, will be subject to ongoing “enforcement sweeps and educational outreach,” which are scheduled to continue through February.
“We believe that every death on a construction site in this city is preventable,” said DOB Acting Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik. “I have ordered construction safety inspectors to fan out across the city to hammer home the message to contractors and workers that cutting corners when it comes to safety can have deadly consequences.”
As part of the new campaign, DOB inspectors will “walk the site looking for unsafe conditions, distribute multilingual educational materials to construction workers about avoiding common work-site hazards, and talk directly to workers during morning safety meetings [known as tool-box talks], about the dangers they face when city DOB and federal OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] regulations are ignored,” the announcement said.
Historically, worker falls are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities on construction sites. The DOB’s records show that worker falls were responsible for eight of the ten building construction fatalities that have taken place in NYC in 2022.
“We must acknowledge that there are inherent risks whenever someone steps foot on a construction site, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept avoidable injuries and deaths,” said Vilenchick.
Anyone can anonymously report unsafe working conditions on construction sites by calling 311.
I always see (and smell) construction workers smoking weed in my neighborhood while on their breaks and think, “hmm that doesn’t seem safe.” Just a thought, wondering if anyone else has noticed.
The OSHA website has a page dealing with fall protection at the following URL address:
There are nets to be set up for certain situations, pads for certain heights, air bags for other heights. The protection methods are out there for management to do their due diligence with regard to protecting their employees. Safety first. Some famous person said that. Stay safe. Have a Happy New Year.
How many people lost their lives to falling bricks in the 40 years before Local Law 11 was enacted? How many construction workers have lost their lives in the 40 years since Local Law 11 came into effect? This article suggests it might have been eight lives lost from falls in 2022. I think it’s time to revisit Local Law 11. No one argues that some form of facade inspection isn’t warranted, but is there any evidence that it needs to be done every five years versus seven years or eight or even ten? I can’t help but wonder if the “cure” isn’t more costly than the problem.
Yes, yes, yes. Even under the best of circumstances hanging scaffolding is dangerous work. It also puts wear and tear on buildings from the coping stones to just general banging around delicate elements and using electric hammers which vibrate much larger areas than just the area that might need to be fixed.
If you have people looking hard enough and often enough, they will find problems at the risk of losing their insurance if something did happen.
City should experiment with doing this every 7 or 8 years. Might also help get rid of the blight of sidewalk bridges every few hundred feet.
Stats are irrelevant if you are one of the eight unlucky souls upon whose head a deadly brick falls. If a single life is saved by more frequent inspections, it’s worth the cost and the inconvenience of scaffolding, netting, etc.