Worker Safety at NYC Construction sites
Many people believe non-union construction jobs are less safe compared to union jobs. According to OSHA statistics, 78% of all New York construction accidents happen on non-union jobs. It is difficult to prove whether non-union job sites are more dangerous. Most of the work going on in NYC is non-union. Union jobs are usually confined to the larger jobs. Further, many jobs contain a mix of union and non-union workers.
The size of a project is a more accurate predictor of worker safety. Larger job sites tend to hire site safety companies, have tool box talks about safety, and conduct more frequent inspections. Construction work on 10 story or taller buildings must have a licensed site safety inspector. Larger construction sites have Department of Building inspectors, investor or developer inspectors, and other audits of the ongoing construction project. Smaller construction jobs including projects on under 10 story buildings are not inspected or monitored as closely. However, these smaller jobs account for 95% of all active NYC construction jobs.
After a construction accident, an injured worker has two potential avenues of redress. One is the worker’s compensation system which pays for lost wages and medical bills. Worker’s comp is an administrative system where the injured worker and his or her attorney will present a case to a judge. The employer’s worker’s compensation insurance carrier will also hire a lawyer to defend the claim. The judge’s decision will be based on recommendations and prognosis contained in medical reports received from each side’s doctors.
Another avenue of compensation is the Labor Law also known as the Scaffold law. This New York State statute protects construction workers by placing absolute liability on the owner and general contractor of a job site. It applies to gravity related accidents including falls from a ladder as well as falling objects which strike a worker. General contractors purchase general liability insurance to help protect them from lawsuits under the Scaffold Law. Companies may pay up to 15% of their earnings to insurance premiums for the largest jobs that carry the highest potential risk. Deductibles can range from $100,000 up to $1,000,000. In the last seven years, insurance costs have risen by 100%.
Workers believe the Scaffold law and accompanying premiums help to hold contractors to a high standard thereby keeping jobs safe. Construction companies and landlords of sites think large verdicts and settlements may entice workers to file more claims and therefore divert money that should be designated for safety.