Construction companies and building owners erect scaffolding as a means of supporting the professionals building or repairing an edifice. Unfortunately, scaffolding failures and gravity-related incidents are a leading cause of injury and death among construction professionals.
Research into incidents that leave construction workers injured and dead has shown a troubling trend regarding fatal construction injuries. Specifically, immigrants are at elevated risk when compared with other workers in the construction industry.
While there is currently a bill waiting for the Governor’s signature that could help improve the safety of many New York construction professionals, including immigrant workers, there is fierce opposition from both the construction and real estate lobbies.
What the research shows
The current construction laws in New York do not do enough to protect workers or punish employers that bend or break safety regulations. There have been cases where companies committed egregious safety violations and only had to pay $10,000 fines after someone died.
Young workers and immigrants, especially those with a language barrier or without documentation, are at particularly high risk of employers failing to train them and provide them with necessary safety equipment when working on a dangerous construction project. Many businesses unfortunately operate with the policy that it is better to pay the costs associated with a deadly incident than it is to pay more for safety equipment, training and labor.
What the pending bill might do
The New York state legislature passed Carlos Law in honor of a construction worker who died in 2015. If the governor signs the bill into law, it would increase the fines assessed against organizations whose negligence or statutory non-compliance causes death or serious injury.
The current fine for felony charges of $10,000 would increase to as much as $500,000. If an employer faced misdemeanor charges instead, the potential fine could increase from the current $5,000 fine to up to $300,000.
Given that saving money is the motivation behind much of the regulatory non-compliance and safety issues found on construction sites in New York, significantly increasing the financial penalties the business faces for violations could potentially motivate many businesses to more closely adhere to existing safety rules.
Workers hurt on construction sites and those who lose a loved one often feel like they have few options. Learning more about New York law and the protections that exist for people injured by construction work can help those who want to pursue compensation, possibly through a personal injury lawsuit.