New York City Buildings Commissioner announced an 84% decrease in fatal construction-related accidents in New York City in 2009 when compared to the previous year. However, the total number of construction-related accidents and injuries rose in 2009. The Department attributes the increase primarily to more accident reporting by industry members.
The total number of reported construction accidents rose from 151 in 2008 to 224 in 2009, and the total number of reported injuries rose from 178 in 2008 to 246 in 2009. The Department also headed-off a conclusion that the decrease in fatal construction-related accidents was due to reduced construction activity due to the economy, noting that while initial permits issued for major construction decreased 33% in 2009, fatal construction-related accidents decreased by a far greater margin – 3 fatalities in 2009 compared to 19 in 2008, 12 in 2007 and 18 in 2006.
The Department credits itself for the significant decrease in fatalities, citing its expanded enforcement powers, increased its oversight of high-risk construction operations and implemented new programs and initiatives designed to raise safety awareness throughout the construction industry. Many changes came in response to 2 crane collapses that occurred in 2008. In 2009, two construction-related fatalities were due to a worker falling – one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn – where both workers had not properly used a required safety harness.
The third fatality was due to the collapse of a concrete wall in Staten Island. In 2008, eight of the 19 construction-related fatalities were due to a worker falling, prompting the Department to launch a multi-lingual worker safety campaign that distributed thousands of posters, brochures and banners to construction sites across the City to encourage workers to wear their safety harnesses. Last year, Department inspectors issued nearly 10,000 full and partial Stop Work Orders when unsafe construction conditions were found.
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