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Immigrants at high risk of construction injuries and deaths

With the end of the recent recession came an influx of building in New York City. Has the industry kept up-to-date with safety issues? Possibly not.

As of last year, New York City’s Investigation Department commissioner stated, “There is a real problem with construction safety.” He was referring to the uptick in injuries and fatalities that have primarily occurred in the undocumented immigrant labor population.

The building frenzy of residential and commercial structures across the city has come at a high price, as in the period from 2013 to 2015, there was a definite surge in the incidents where laborers were killed or hurt in construction accidents.

One undocumented worker, 36, died last year while installed decking on a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, building. He fell almost 20 feet after losing his balance on the job.

Still another worker, a 58-year-old Indian immigrant,fell eight stories to his death from a scaffold while repairing the facade of a hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

A dozen days later, 33-year-old immigrant worker careened off the roof of a Midtown office building and plunged 110 feet to his death.

Investigative reporters with The New York Times reviewed reports of all construction fatalities over a two-year period and discovered that many accidents were actually “completely avoidable.” It became apparent in at least one investigation by federal safety authorities that their conclusion was correct.

One reason for the deaths was the workers’ infrequent use of safety devices like helmets and harnesses, which by law must be worn. A lack of supervision and emphasis on working fast and taking shortcuts proved deadly for many.

The construction projects where the deaths took place dotted the city’s landscape in all five boroughs, with an expected cluster in Manhattan. Smaller projects using non-union laborers with little safety training that were overseen by contractors with prior safety violations and outstanding fines were typically the sites of the workplace injuries and deaths.

This demographic group is very vulnerable to exploitation due to their legal status. Workers may be afraid or unable to voice their concerns about safety issues. If you were injured, or lost a loved one, in a construction-related accident, it’s vital that you learn what your legal rights are regarding seeking compensation.

Source: The New York Times, “Safety Lapses and Deaths Amid a Building Boom in New York,” David W. Chen, accessed Sep. 08, 2016

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