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Construction Accidents: OSHA’s “Fatal Four”

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), more than 12 American employees die every day from work-related injuries. Every year, that comes to an average of 4,405 worker deaths. You can find detailed accident statistics on OSHA’s website here.

Preventing Construction Accidents: OSHA’s Valuable Work

OSHA has long considered construction one of America’s most dangerous industries. In fact, rampant injuries within construction-related workplaces were a main reason for the federal agency’s creation.

The Occupational Safety & Health Act, which gave governmental agencies unprecedented regulatory control over hazardous job sites, was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has compiled year-by-year statistics on construction accidents since OSHA’s founding. In 1970, there were 13,800 job-related deaths. In 2007, that number was down to 5,657. Obviously, OSHA’s crackdown on workplace hazards has been effective.

But Is It Enough?

And while increased regulation has done a lot to make construction sites safer nationwide, the problem is far from solved.

The AFL-CIO noted in 2013 that “it is clear OSHA lacks sufficient resources to protect workers adequately.” On its own website, the agency admits as much, writing: “Federal OSHA is a small agency; with our state partners we have approximately 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers, employed at more than 8 million worksites around the nation — which translates to about one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.” Since its founding over 40 years ago, OSHA has only successfully convicted 12 employers of criminal negligence.

With so few inspectors, and so many job sites to police, OSHA relies in large part on employee reporting. Thankfully, the Occupational Safety & Health Act instituted sweeping protections for whistleblowers, ensuring that no employer could lawfully retaliate against a worker who reports a violation. You can file a complaint against your employer here.

New York City: Revived Economy, Renewed Risks

New York City’s real estate market is surging back to life after the Great Recession. 2012 saw developers pour approximately $20.5 billion into new development, including at least one mega high-rise in Manhattan’s West Side that cost around $15 billion. The construction industry’s turnaround has been so abrupt, and so substantial, that many economists have voiced fears over a shortage of skilled labor. Needless to say, this fear would have seemed unintelligible during the Recession, when so many people were out of work.

But the work is returning and it’s only a matter of time before our five boroughs become reacquainted with the inherent hazards of construction. With OSHA strapped for cash and manpower, New York City’s construction workers must remain vigilant for hazards at all times.

Common Dangers On New York City’s Construction Sites

OSHA reports that “one in five worker deaths” occur in the construction industry. Distilling their data, they found that four major causes resulted in more than half of all construction deaths:


36.9% of all fatal construction accidents involve a fall. And the agency cites more American worksites for violating their fall protection regulations than any other statute. Inappropriately erected scaffolding is a major concern.

Learn more on our “Scaffold & Ladder Accidents” page here.

Struck By Object

Workers who were hit by objects accounted for 10.3% of all construction accident fatalities in 2013. This category includes being struck by heavy equipment, like trucks and cranes, falling objects, and falling walls.

You can find information on preventing struck-by accidents here.


71 workers died in 2013 after being electrocuted. There are numerous electrical hazards on almost every construction site, but the dangers are most acute for “electrical power installers and repairers and earth drillers.”

You can find OSHA’s training manual for electrical safety here.

Caught-In / Between

In 2007 alone, 294 workers were killed after being caught inside or between different objects. Every case is different, but several involved workers who were stuck between an immovable surface, like a wall, and a large piece of equipment. Others involved limbs that had been caught by moving machinery parts.

Contact New York City’s Most Experienced Construction Accident Lawyers

Were you injured in a construction accident? Do you suspect that negligence played a part in your injuries?

Contact Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, P.C. for a free consultation. Over nearly 100 years of combined legal experience, our personal injury attorneys have secured millions for victims just like you. In fact, some of our successful cases have been instrumental in shaping New York City’s existing worker injury laws. It’s time to put our experience to work for your case. Call 212-285-3300 or complete our contact form here.

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