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Pedestrians Face Risks of Construction Accidents, Too

A new analysis of construction accidents in New York City underscores the fact that it is not only workers who are at risk of being injured or killed at work sites. Innocent passersby are exposed to the risk as well.

A Wall Street Journal review of NYC Department of Buildings records found that “at least once a month on average, a passerby is injured near a New York City construction site by anything from falling bricks, hammers and glass, to windblown fences and collapsing sidewalk sheds.”

In all, 96 construction accidents in New York City between 2008 and 2014 caused 155 injuries to pedestrians and other passersby, including three children and at least four motor vehicle occupants, the newspaper reports.

The problem grew worse when the economy rebounded after 2008, and construction activity picked up, according to the newspaper. In 2014, there were 18 such construction accidents – the most of any year since the city began providing accident details in 2008. Twenty-two people suffered injuries, the third-highest annual total on record.

Although they were not in the Wall Street Journal’s study, Albany and Syracuse have experienced the same economic growth and rise in construction activity as New York City in recent years. Pedestrians and others in Upstate New York face the same peril of accidents near construction sites.

Falling Objects Pose Threat to Construction Site Passersby

As the newspaper notes, the main injury threat faced by those who pass by construction sites comes from falling objects.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) refers to accidents caused by falling objects as “struck by” accidents. Struck-by hazards are one of the four most deadly hazards found at construction sites, OSHA states.

People can be injured by objects that fall because they are:

  • Being moved unsafely by men or machinery such as cranes or hoists
  • Being stored improperly
  • Dropped by construction workers
  • Sent flying by power tools
  • Constructed poorly such as scaffolds, fences or sidewalk sheds (built to protect pedestrians) that collapse.

We agree with the NYC Department of Buildings spokesman who told the Journal, “There is no excuse for construction professionals to not ensure they are operating in code compliance and protecting the public at all times as they are required to do by law.”

For example, there should be debris nets, catch platforms or canopies adjacent to structures under construction to catch or deflect objects that fall. Tools and materials should be stacked or otherwise stored so that they will not fall if undisturbed. OSHA has a variety of training tools available to illustrate and reinforce compliance with these and many similar regulations.

Construction site owners and contractors can be held liable for their negligence if an accident that should not have happened injures a passerby.

The construction site accident attorneys at Powers & Santola, LLP, investigate accidents at construction and demolition sites, including those involving pedestrians and other innocent parties. Please see our results for examples of construction and other workplace accident cases that our firm has handled.

If you would like to schedule a free consultation, speak to our construction accident lawyer by phone or by reaching us through our online form.

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