Another Queens construction accident has claimed the life of a worker. He apparently fell through a hole in the floor and hit his head on a steel girder. The Department of Buildings issued a stop work order pending an investigation of the accident.
This is the second time work on the site was halted by a Department of Buildings order. In 2012, work stopped after neighbors complained that vibrations from the site were destabilizing their foundations. It is also the second serious construction accident to occur in recent weeks. What’s going on?
If you think that construction accidents like this one are on the rise, you are correct. A Daily News report reveals that the number of jobsite accidents rose 31 percent from 119 to 157 from fiscal 2011 to 2012, while the number of injuries grew 46 percent — from 128 to 187.
Why an Increase in Construction Accidents? Is it Lack of Oversight?
Apparently, oversight by the city’s Department of Buildings has been reduced, certainly a contributing factor. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of worksite inspections declined by 40 percent, from 244,000 in 2009 to slightly more than 141,000 in 2012. Accompanying this decline was a reduction in citations of 6,600 from 2011 to 2012. The city cites a lack of inspectors as the reason for this, and has promised to hire more.
Is the Fox Guarding the Henhouse?
Because there are fewer inspectors, many contractors are given the responsibility of policing their own job sites if they are licensed construction superintendents. In some instances this results in them being responsible for safety for more job sites than the law allows. It also creates a conflict of interest, according to some construction accident lawyers and other experts.
It does seem to be a case of the fox guarding the henhouse when contractors are given oversight of safety compliance at their own projects. Contractors have deadlines and workers need to be paid. Everyone is unhappy when work stops on a site because safety violations. Consequently, construction superintendants have many incentives to not report violations or address safety hazards. Sadly, this often has tragic consequences.
Source: Daily News, “Jobsite accidents in New York City jumped 31 percent from 2011 to 2012, while injuries up 46% in same period,” by Greg B. Smith, Jan. 13, 2013.