Construction deaths have been on the rise ever since the city entered into its current building boom. But a new study from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health titled “Deadly Skyline” shows just how dire the situation has become. Between 2011 and 2015, New York state construction worker fatalities jumped from 33 to 55, and of these, 25 were in NYC. Even more alarming is the fact that, during this time, safety inspections decreased from 2,722 to 1,966 and 90 percent of fatalities were the result of safety violations at construction sites.
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All you have to do is look up to see that New York City is in the midst of a building boom; but this surge in development comes with a price. The New York Times reports that construction-related deaths and injuries over the past two years, most of which affect undocumented immigrant laborers, “far exceeds the rate of new construction over the same period,” a testament to the inadequate safety systems at job sites. City records show that there were ten construction-related fatalities in the most recent fiscal year (July 2014 – July 2015), nearly twice the annual average. This time period also saw a 53 percent spike in injuries, up to 324 instances, and a 52 percent rise in accidents, up to 314.
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After last month’s construction accident at the Greenwich Lane site in the Village, in which a piece of flying plywood killed a young woman named Tina Nguyen who was just walking by, the Wall Street Journal investigated construction injuries to passersby (not construction workers). Their analysis of Department of Buildings data shows that on average one passerby per month is injured at a New York City construction site. According to the paper, “From 2008 through 2014, there were 96 construction accidents involving pedestrians and other passersby in New York City, resulting in 155 injuries. More than three-quarters of the accidents took place in Manhattan.”
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Scaffolding in New York City is as much a part of the city’s skyline as the Empire State Building itself—and has been around for much longer. On the surface, scaffolding seems to be a necessary ugly; a kind of urban cocoon from which a beautiful new butterfly building emerges.
But if you are one of those people who cringes every time you see a building wrapped in scaffolding, you better get used to it because it’s only going to get worse. All while the scaffolding companies laugh all the way to the bank.
What’s with all the scaffolding?