A little more than a week after a crane collapse in lower Manhattan killed a man sitting in his parked car, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced bigger fines for construction companies that violate safety regulations.
The new fines will be four times greater the current ones. They include a maximum $25,000 penalty for developers who don’t use a construction superintendent on site.
The latest accident occurred Feb. 5, when a 565-foot crane collapsed while it was being lowered to a secure position due to high winds. It crushed 38-year-old David Wichs and injured three pedestrians.
A cost of doing business
The city has seen a rising tide of construction accidents over the past few years, resulting in fatalities and injuries to both workers and pedestrians. Safety advocates charge that the drive to develop expensive real estate has led to safety shortcuts on the part of contractors and lax enforcement of regulations by authorities.
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) said increased fines will help reverse the upward injury and fatality trend in the city’s construction industry, because many unscrupulous employers regard fines as a cost of doing business. “Instead of putting a price on life, employers must ensure complete safety measures have been calculated into the cost of doing good business and prioritizing workers’ safety and health on the job,” said the group in a statement.
The immigrant factor
Noting that a large proportion of the city’s construction workforce is made up of immigrant and Latino workers, NYCOSH is calling on the Department of Buildings to work collaboratively with immigrant and community organizations, day labor workers centers, and unions to identify unscrupulous contractors and successfully prove cases against them.
NYCOSH’s most recent report on construction industry fatalities (The Price of Life, 2015), with analysis on deadly falls in construction, found that many of the injuries in height related accidents could have been prevented if the employer had complied with the city’s safety rules.