NEW YORK – Construction workers in the 1930’s were having Lunch atop a Skyscraper (see right); without hardhats, without harnesses, without hardly any of the safety standards abided by today. It’s safe to say modern construction has come a long way.
The iconic picture tells the story of America’s construction prowess and the potential perils of progress in the early 1900’s. What the picture fails to show is the many accidents that happened on construction sites, many of which are deadly.
“Construction is certainly safer today around the country and specifically, in New York,” construction accident attorney Steve Barnes said. “Unfortunately, there’s a worksite culture that leaves safety in the background when it still needs to be the top priority.”
Thousands of construction accidents still occur every year. A report released by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found up to 71 percent of construction accidents are height-related and half of all construction accidents are falls.
“There’s technology currently in place to prevent all accidents on a worksite; every one of them,” Barnes said. “However, these safety techniques can be costly and developers often avoid using them.”
The Port Authority on New York and New Jersey noted the construction on One World Trade Center used a safety system that cost $9 million.
Almost 400 miles away in Buffalo, construction employment is at an all-time high and safety advocates fear it could be a recipe for disaster if the proper safety procedures are ignored.
Germain Harnden, executive director for the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health wrote to the Buffalo News:
“The April jobs report should permanently put to rest the old canard that we cannot have both strong jobs growth in the construction industry and strong safety laws to protect workers.
Construction employment is up 11 percent over the last year and is now at an all-time high for the Buffalo Niagara area. According to big business lobbyists, though, that kind of hiring should not be possible, thanks to the Scaffold Law.
That law holds contractors and owners responsible when they break lifesaving safety rules, but for years, lobbyists have wanted to gut the law so as to shift the blame for construction accidents from those who actually control work sites to the men and women who follow orders and do the work.
Last week’s news makes clear we do not have to sacrifice safety for jobs. That is no surprise. The Scaffold Law has been on the books for more than 100 years, through booms and busts. Nearly every building you see across New York State was built, successfully, under its guidelines.
Putting workers’ lives at risk should never be on the table. As the April jobs report makes clear, it never has to be.”
New York construction accident attorneys at Cellino & Barnes say all construction accidents are avoidable with the proper oversight and safety features.