Safety at heights: what is happening in New York?

The New York City Department of Buildings has announced proactive enforcement sweeps to enforce safety rules at construction sites. Also, it was announced that the fines for failing to comply with safety regulations will quadruple.

These announcements follow an increase in construction worker fatalities, which made the front page of the New York Times last year. Last December, thousands of construction workers rallied outside City Hall for a safer workplace, carrying black coffins to support their statement.

The numbers
Between October 2014 and September 2015, 18 construction workers have died in New York, compared to 12 worker deaths in the same period the year before, and 7 deaths two years ago. In 2015, almost a third of the deaths reported to OSHA1 from the state of New York were the result of a fall accident.

Last year, XSPlatforms published this infographic about fall accidents in North America. 

Construction fallprotection XSPlatforms

Falls from height in New York
In a 2015 report on construction fatalities by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), it is concluded that work at heights poses the greatest risk for construction workers in the state.

Falls from height are a leading cause of death for construction workers throughout the US, but this seems to be especially apparent in New York City – the city that houses more high-rise buildings than any other city in the country. The NYCOSH report further indicated that historically, the percentage of falls that occur from 30 feet or higher in New York has been more than double the national average.

New measures to make construction safer
With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to encourage the construction of taller (more affordable) buildings, it is unlikely that the building boom of New York City will soon come to an end. In 2015, there has been a huge increase in the amount of building permits issued by the New York Department of Buildings.

The new enforcement measures are necessary to prevent that the increase in construction work at great heights is paralleled by an increase in avoidable fall accidents. No less than 100 new enforcement inspectors will be hired to sweep high-risk construction sites.

By personally announcing these actions, the mayor of New York City has issued a clear warning to contractors attempting to become more profitable by viewing fines as a cost of doing business. It is only a matter of time before we will start seeing reports of DOB inspectors cracking down on contractors cutting corners on safety.

Unsafe buildings under construction in New York can be reported by calling 311.

Construction worker safety
The recent developments in New York show that even in developed countries, the safety of a workplace at great heights is far from self-evident. Even in this day and age, preventable fall accidents are a leading cause of death among the people who are building our cities.

As a manufacturer of solutions for safe work at height, XSPlatforms works towards a world where people working in construction have everything they need to preclude the risk of falling. Those responsible for safety at height can always contact XSPlatforms for help in choosing a safety solution that suits their project.

1 OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the US Department of Labor that sets and enforces most of the standards for working conditions nationwide.

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