Common Types of Construction Accidents in New York

by Jonathan Damashek on Sep. 24, 2020

Accident & Injury Personal Injury Employment  Workers' Compensation Employment  Occupational Safety & Health 

Summary: Construction accidents are the leading cause of death in workplace fatalities in NYC. Learn more about injuries due to construction accidents and what to do if you've been injured.

Construction is one of the more dangerous industries in the country. In 2018, private construction had the most workplace fatalities in New York City. Specialty trade contractors accounted for 10 of 22 deaths, and building construction accounted for nine. These deaths and many more injuries were caused by a wide range of accidents, from rebar slipping from someone’s hands to faulty equipment. But while all sorts of accidents can happen on the job, a few types of accidents are the most common. 


OSHA’s Fatal Four


Four accidents are so common in the construction industry that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), calls them the Fatal Four




Falling on construction sites is one of the leading causes of worker fatalities. In 2018, 338 out of 1,008 deaths in construction were from falls. These incidents happen for all sorts of reasons. Workers trip on debris and equipment on the ground, often when they are carrying something or need to walk backward. Workers fall on stairs, off unstable ladders, and from poorly constructed scaffolding. The more deadly scenarios are when workers fall from roofs or when working several stories above the ground floor.  


When a third of an industry’s deaths are from one type of incident, workers and businesses know to take it seriously. But despite how common falls are—and how deadly they are—they keep happening. Violations related to fall protection and fall protection training in construction environments were two of the most frequently cited issues in the 2018 fiscal year. Construction businesses need to provide safe work environments, fall arrest systems, and other safety equipment to prevent dangerous falls.


Struck by Objects


The second most common cause of construction worker deaths is being struck by objects. This category covers a variety of incidents, including workers getting by moving or (intentionally or unintentionally) falling objects. These accidents account for 112 out of 1,008 deaths (11.1%) in 2018. 


For example, in January 2020 in New York, a carpenter working on a stair landing to install wall panels was struck in the lower back by the head of a sledgehammer that fell from above. Why did this happen? The wooden handle broke while another worker was using it. 




The third most common fatal construction accidents are electrocutions. Construction workers routinely work with electric equipment, from handheld power tools to large machinery. A defect or failure to turn off an energy course before working on a machine can lead to a deadly electrical shock. In 2018, 86 construction workers died from electrocutions (8.5%). It’s also concerning that control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout procedures) was one of the top 10 most frequently cited standards in the 2018 fiscal year. 


Caught-in or Between Objects


The fourth most common type of fatal construction accident is being caught-in or between vehicles, equipment, or objects. These accidents caused 55 out of 1,008 deaths (5.5%) in 2018. 


Here’s an example of a caught-between accident in New York reported in January 2020. A worker was loading debris into a garbage truck when his left hand became caught in between materials. He injured his index and middle fingers. This incident might have been minor, but injuries to hands and fingers can lead to pain, an inability to work, and a permanent physical limitation. 


Learning More About New York Construction Accidents


Because of Local Law 78 of 2017, the NYC Department of Buildings publishes construction-related accident reports. The reported injuries and fatalities all happen on a construction site or were caused by construction activity on an adjoining site. 


As of May 31, NYC Buildings reported 2020 construction accidents include: 


  • Excavation/Soil Work Accidents: 0
  • Falling Material Accidents: 10
  • Mechanical Construction Equipment (cranes, hoists, demolition equipment) Accidents: 2
  • Scaffold/Shed/Fence/Shoring Installation Accidents: 4
  • Worker Falls: 48
  • Other Construction-Related Accidents: 110


There was one death as a result of falling materials, and 186 injuries mostly from other construction-related accidents and falls. 


A majority of the construction accidents in 2020 were in Manhattan (104), followed by Brooklyn (38), Bronx (18), and Queens (14). 


Given construction has been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though. It’s important to take a look at the full figures the years before. There were 565 construction accidents that led to injuries or fatalities in NYC last year. These incidents caused 595 injuries and 12 deaths. In 2018, NYC saw 746 construction accidents, resulting in 761 injuries and 12 deaths. 


Construction Industry Should Focus on Safety as it Reopens


As the construction industry begins to return to work in NYC following COVID-19 restrictions, employers and workers should be reminded of the risks. In addition to worrying about spreading a potentially dangerous virus, workers have to remember the safety regulations and best practices to prevent falls, being struck by objects, and other common construction workplace accidents. 

Learn more about the construction accident lawyers Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. (HKD) located in Brooklyn, New York.

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