Everything You Need to Know About NYC Construction Accidents

Everything You Need to Know About NYC Construction Accidents

Steven Schwartzapfel -Founding Partner Sep 17, 2020

For more than 35 years, Steven Schwartzapfel, the founding member of Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C., has been one of New York’s most prominent personal injury attorneys. Steve represents clients in all types of personal injury cases. His experience, skill, and dedication have enabled Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. to recover hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

Despite the reams of rules and regulations, New York City is one of the most dangerous locations for construction worker injuries and fatalities.

Families left behind have to fill the void in more than one way. The pain and grief of physical loss are real. But financial loss deepens and complicates your troubles.

At a time when your family has mounting out-of-pocket medical expenses, and potential loss of income, you could be facing an uphill battle. The fact is that construction sites are the most hazardous locations for potential injuries and fatalities in New York City.

You can begin to connect the dots when you learn that 2019 alone saw 11,484 safety violations — and these are just the ones caught.

The State of Construction Accidents in the State of New York

Even a litany of the most recent construction accidents only scratches the surface of what workers face every day:

  • A 51-year old worker repairing a façade on an old brick building was suspended on a scaffold when a heavy stone slab fell from above in April of 2019. The falling slab struck the construction worker, ultimately killing him in East Midtown Manhattan.
  • On August 27th, 2019, a worker died after being buried, trapped under hundreds of pounds of rubble after the third floor of a building he was working in collapsed on him. From 2006 to 2016, nearly half of the construction workers at non-union job sites are Hispanic or Latino.
  • After a carbon dioxide tank failed, it burst on a construction site in Brooklyn, severely injuring a construction worker in January of 2020.
  • A 50-year-old construction worker’s death and another 44-year-old civilian’s injuries were directly related to a wall collapse in Queens on February 21st, 2020.
  • A construction employee was killed and another seriously injured at a construction site in Chelsea on Ninth Avenue, in July of 2020, following a fire extinguisher explosion.

For most of us, going to work on Monday morning is a source of income to provide for our families, connection with our co-workers, and maybe even joy, meaning, and purpose.

But for workers who toil on construction sites, their skills often come at the cost of their limbs or their lives. These stories give you just a glimpse of the true nature of “hazardous” work for construction crews and contractors.

New York Construction Worker Killed in Wall Collapse

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The information published by the Deadly Skyline Reports confirms this grim but honest reality:

  • In New York City, deaths on a construction site are increasing — from 2017 to 2018, the number killed on the job rose by 10 percent.
  • Older workers face higher rates of fatalities and injuries, according to the DoB (Department of Buildings).
  • Despite high OSHA fines, NY construction facilities continue to experience significant construction site safety violations.
  • The report also highlights three key methods proven to be effective in preventing employee deaths and injuries: consistent and ongoing training, regulatory oversight and enforcement, and timely reporting (especially by construction workers on-site!)

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health also uncovered these opportunities for improvement through its data. If you’re a construction contractor, or you have a family member or friend who works at a construction site in New York, NY, pay close attention:

  • Falls continue to be the top cause of construction fatalities and injuries in New York State and NYC. In the past decade alone, 48% of workers who died on the job were due to fall-related situations.
  • 69% of all employee deaths relate to the “fatal four” (falls, electrocutions, struck by objects, and caught in or between equipment or machinery). These are the main cause of most injuries in the construction industry.

Now, OSHA has specific standards for these issues. Falls, for example, have several solutions that site supervisors can implement.

New York Construction Worker Protections

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Don’t buy the narrative that accidents involving the “fatal four” are inevitable. You can learn to protect yourself on the job.

Why Are Construction Site Accidents So Common?

You may be asking yourself what accident construction workers don’t face with numbers like these. From the brief but numerous news clippings that catch our attention, we can see that construction workers face issues even when they’re not working on a building.

Juan Hoy, an elevator technician, said that learning how to use a fall arrest system properly saved his life when he fell down an elevator shaft while working on the 54th floor.

Proper training can even address personal issues like an employer or site supervisor pushing a worker to get the job done faster.

The fact is that your work can be made safer.

Causes of Injuries, Accidents, and Fatalities at Construction Sites

What are the most common injuries in construction? That would be situations involving the “fatal four,” responsible for one in five deaths due to a construction accident.

Leading Causes of Construction Fatalities

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Just eliminating these four would save 591 workers’ lives every year.


These include unprotected workspaces, faulty scaffolding, ladder misuse, and exposed rebars, to name a few. Personal Fall Arrest (PFA) systems, guardrail systems, and covers can prevent injuries.


These include accidents from contact with power lines, inadequate ground-fault protection, improper use of equipment.

Injuries include mild to severe burns, cardiac arrest, internal bleeding, and more.

Resources like OSHA’s safety training for electrical work make these incidents preventable.

Struck-by Object/Hazard

As construction workers interact with machinery and equipment, they can come into forceful contact with falling objects, vehicles (heavy equipment like dump trucks, bulldozers, cranes, etc.), and materials like heavy masonry walls or sheets of drywall.

Provisions of personal protective equipment (PPEs), proper training for machinery operation, and qualified operators, riggers, and signal persons can help reduce these issues.


It’s no surprise that non-union sites and jobs have such a high number of these kinds of accidents, where you may be trapped between machinery or fixed structures. Workers can’t refuse work or conditions that might trigger caught-in/between accidents on these sites, which is unfortunate because they’re absolutely preventable.

Trench or excavation cave-ins happen suddenly and without warning. In these situations, site supervisors should always ensure that sloping, shoring, or trench shield systems support the trench or excavation.

How to Report a Construction Accident in New York City

Since NYCOSH found that reporting is one of the three keys to reducing work accidents, let’s look at what the process entails.

Anyone can report safety violations to the following bodies in New York City:

  • The NYC Department of Buildings Online — If you see construction sites with excessive debris, work done without a permit, or work performed on weekends or weekdays before 7 a.m. or after 6 p.m., you can report these issues here.
  • The NYC Department of Building Hotline — The hotline is for immediate causes of concern. Simply call 311 for issues involving unsafe conditions for construction workers, lack of fencing, debris that has fallen or is in danger of falling.
  • OSHA — Take responsibility for you and your colleagues’ working conditions by filing a safety violations complaint online at OSHA. Not only will the body investigate and inspect the site right away, but they’ll also levy steep fines. However, you need to act fast because OSHA can only cite fines for issues in the last six months.

What Are Your Rights After Facing a Construction Accident in New York?

What you do after a construction accident will be some of the most important actions you’ll ever take for your financial, physical, and mental well-being. The fact is that the law is on your side — but it requires you to take action first.

A construction accidents lawyer will tell you that there are seven steps to dealing with a construction accident in New York:

1) Get immediate medical attention
2) Notify your supervisor about the injury
3) Write down the names of witnesses
4) File a workers’ comp claim
5) Retain legal counsel from a construction accidents attorney for your case
6) The investigation begins

Never underestimate the actual chaos on the scene if you or a colleague are ever injured. It may be hard to remember all these steps, especially if your situation results in an extreme injury.

The first step is natural, but you’ll need to remember steps two and three. And with the right legal representation on your side, step four, which involves filing for workers compensation is something your attorney can help you through.


The legal team at Schwartzapfel® Lawyers has focused only on personal injury and death claims for the past 35 years. We know that New York City and State are no strangers to the fatalities and injuries construction crews face every day. It’s why we have labor laws like Labor Law 240, the PESH Act, Labor Law 241, Labor Law 200, and quite a few other federal and state laws designed to protect your recovery and your rights.

Even without negligence, getting workers’ compensation is your right by law. However, with the right legal representation, you can ensure that you’re not facing additional complications from medical expenses, lost income, and disability benefits. Contact our team when you’re ready to fight for your fair financial compensation as you progress down the road to recovery.

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