Construction workers, union leaders, and supporters from all over the state of New York gathered in Manhattan on Wednesday, January 18th, 2017, in a show of unity, urging the New York City Council to further protect construction workers by passing the Construction Safety Act.
A “Deadly Skyline”
The march formed after the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health released a reported titled “Deadly Skyline”, which revealed how unnecessarily dangerous working in construction can be.
The report, which was dedicated to the construction workers who died on the job from 2015-2016, found the following:
- Fatalities on the job in New York are on an upward trend. From 2006-2015, 464 construction workers died in an on the job accident.
- From 2014 – 2015, the number of construction accidents which caused an injury or fatality in New York City nearly doubled.
- Typically, non-union sites are more dangerous than others. In 2015, almost 80% of the construction sites examined by OSHA after a fatal accident were non-union.
- On average, 2 out of the 3 sites that were given safety inspections were in violation of OSHA safety standards.
- Falls are the leading cause of death among construction workers.
There seems to be an underlying cause for the lack of concern for worker safety: greed. Time and time again, employers are more interested in saving the company time and money than putting into practice the appropriate safety measures. In fact, horrific stories of cover-up attempts are not uncommon.
In one case, a foreman on a non-union job site was seriously injured when hundreds of pounds of steel rebar fell and landed on his leg. But his employer was more concerned with avoiding an inspection and the potential fines associated with poor safety and they refused to call him an ambulance. Instead, they had another employee take him to the hospital where, while he was being examined, his coworker told doctors that he had “tripped” and wasn’t at work at the time of the accident.
A few days after the accident he was fired.
He isn’t alone and the men and women who marched are demanding that officials start to pay serious attention to the mistreatment of construction workers and to follow the recommendations made in the report.
Recommendations For Improved Safety
The report offered recommendations which, if put into action, would hopefully protect thousands of workers throughout New York. These recommendations include:
- The requirement that all construction workers undergo OSHA 10 training, which is a safety training program covering the most common hazards an employee may find on a job site.
- To create and put into place apprenticeship programs, combining on the job training with technical instruction.
- To pass an Elevator Safety Act. This would require the inspection, maintenance, and repairs of elevators to be performed by licensed workers only.
- Enforce criminal prosecution which would hold employers whose willful negligence resulted in their employee’s death responsible and subject to serious penalties including prison time, license removal, and fines.
The workers who attended the rally are hoping that the city will take the recommendations seriously and put them into effect.
What Rights Do Injured Workers Currently Have?
Although there is certainly room for improvement, if a worker is hurt on the job, they do currently have several options available to them.
If you believe that your injury stemmed from your employer’s failure to adhere to safety standards, you should contact OSHA immediately. They have the authority to send out an inspector who can put a partial or stop work order on the job site if they find a hazardous situation. This means that work will not be able to continue until proper safety standards have been put into place and the site has been rechecked.
No one should ever be afraid to contact OSHA – the administration has a Whistleblowers Program which protects employees who make complaints. The identity of the person who contacted them is kept secret and, if somehow the employer does learn the employee’s identity, the employer is unable to retaliate without facing serious consequences and lawsuits.
File A Workers’ Compensation Claim
The majority of employers in New York are required by law to have a workers’ compensation insurance policy for their employees. This policy provides an injured worker with financial coverage for their medical bills and in some circumstances, lost wages. But filing a claim doesn’t guarantee that the insurance company will pay.
File A Social Security Disability Claim
For workers whose injury prevents them from returning to work, a social security disability claim may be the best way for them to get the help that they need. If approved, the payments from this claim will cover the basic needs of the worker such as food and shelter. But obtaining an approval is not easy.
File A Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Frequently, a third-party whose negligence resulted in the accident which caused injury can be held liable through a personal injury lawsuit.
For example, in October of 2016, a construction worker on a Brooklyn job site was killed when a piece of steel that was part of a crane fell 60 feet and struck him on the head. Although he was wearing a hardhat, the weight of the object and the height which it fell from created an incredible force. One of his coworkers noted that his injuries were so gruesome that “his scalp was ripped.”
In this case, if it is determined that there was a defect with the part that hit the worker, his loved ones may have the option of filing a lawsuit against the party responsible, such as the designer or manufacturer.
Lawsuits provide the plaintiff with another way of obtaining compensation. Damages may cover:
- medical expenses
- lost earnings
- emotional trauma
- physical trauma
- funeral and burial expenses
- loss of consortium
- loss of inheritance
This can potentially include the expenses that doctors and other professionals estimate the plaintiff will likely have in the future.
All of these options can be pursued at the same time, however, the injured worker almost always has the best chance of obtaining the maximum amount possible if they work with a workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney from the beginning.
How Could An Attorney Possibly Help Me?
A serious injury is difficult enough to deal with – between juggling doctors visits, physical therapy, and physical pain, everyday life can become overwhelming. No one needs the additional stress of collecting information and filling out insurance forms.
An attorney can be a great source of help from the very beginning, by helping to correctly file for workers’ compensation, speaking with the insurance adjusters on behalf of the injured worker, collecting any evidence needed to support both the workers’ comp claim and a potential lawsuit, and they can also identify which forms of compensation that a client is eligible for and advise them about their legal options.
It is important to always remember that there are time limits to every form of compensation, which is why it is extremely important for anyone who has been injured on the job to contact an attorney as soon as possible.
How Long Will It Take To Obtain Compensation?
The time it takes to obtain compensation is different in every case. If a workers’ compensation claim is correctly filed and approved, payments may come within weeks. Lawsuits, however, take time, typically a minimum of a few months.