“To increase profits, contractors often cut corners on workers' safety,” said Schwartzapfel, founding partner of Schwartzapfel Truhowky Marcus P.C., a New York personal injury law firm that handles construction injury cases. “But when owners and contractors put profits before safety, the workers pay the ultimate price. “
Schwartzapfel referenced Sorbara Construction, a Lynnbrook, N.Y., concrete contractor that recently received $72,000 in proposed OSHA fines for alleged safety violations after a worker fell 10 floors at a Manhattan worksite in March. The worker suffered non-life threatening injuries. Sorbara Construction did not offer a comment when contacted by EHS Today.
“Our experience shows these kinds of accidents are preventable,” Schwartzapfel said. “Often, investigations by our firm reveal that the contractor failed to provide adequate safety measures. We have seen inadequate fall protection, lack of safety harnesses, lack of or improperly assembled and secured scaffolding, a failure to safeguard open floor holes and to keep pathways clear of debris.”
In 2008, workers in construction suffered the most fatalities of any industry in the private sector with 969 deaths, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) census of fatal occupational injuries. BLS reported 680 fatal falls in 2008, down from a record 847 fatal falls in 2007. The economic recession in part may have accounted for that decline.
“It's no secret that construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in the county,” Schwartzapfel said. “Unfortunately, until certain contractors value worker safety over additional profits, these accidents will continue to happen.”