The Real Deal New York

Deaths at NYC construction sites on the rise

The spike in deaths has coincided with a decrease in the number of site-safety inspectors available in the city

October 19, 2015 05:15PM


The site of the collapsed crane at 261 Madison Avenue

It’s a dangerous time to be a construction worker in New York City, according to an analysis of recent deaths at construction sites.

In the past three years, the city has seen a rise in the number of deaths at construction sites. Eighteen workers died between October 2014 and September 2015, an increase from the 12 killed the previous year and the seven workers killed two years ago.

The spike in deaths has coincided with a decrease in the number of site-safety inspectors available in the city, dropping from 1,171 in 2011 to 1,105 in 2014, according to the New York Daily News. During that same period of time, construction permits have increased by 121,000 to 142,000, meaning demand for these inspectors isn’t slowing down. Alexander Schnell, press secretary with the city Department of Buildings, noted that site safety managers are only required at buildings of 15 stories or higher and excavations of 100,000 square feet or more. He said that because the safety managers must be on site while work is being done, there isn’t a proven correlation between the number of safety managers and deaths.

Several high-profile accidents have made headlines in the past year. In April, a 22-year-old worker was killed when a trench he was digging at the Patsis Building in the Meatpacking District collapsed and buried him alive. An inspector had warned the project’s subcontractor, Sky Materials, of various safety issues at the site. After the worker’s death, OSHA fined Sky Materials and the general contractor, Harco Contruction LLC, $142,000 each.

A month later, a crane’s cable snapped and dropped a shipping container onto the Sapir Organization’s 261 Madison Avenue, injuring at least 10 people.

The Department of Buildings in August found that construction accidents in FY 2015 were up 34 percent. [NYDN] — Kathryn Brenzel

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the nature of a crane accident at 261 Madison. The crane’s cable snapped, causing its cargo to smash into the building.