The number of fatal construction-related accidents in New York City decreased in 2009 by 84 percent over the previous year, city officials have reported.

NYC’s Fatal Construction Accidents Plummet in 2009

Three fatalities were reported in 2009 compared to 19 in 2008, 12 in 2007 and 18 in 2006, according to the New York City Department of Buildings.

Though DOB reports show that permits issued for major construction decreased 33 percent in 2009, fatal construction-related accidents decreased by a far greater margin thanks to the department’s expanded enforcement powers, increased oversight of high-risk construction operations and a slew of new safety awareness programs and initiatives.

“We have been working to change the culture of the construction industry- to put public safety ahead of profit-and our message is being heard,” said Commissioner LiMandri. “While the tough economic times have slowed down construction, more contractors, developers and licensed professionals are integrating safety into their practices, and this city is a safer place for it.”

The total number of non-fatal construction-related accidents and injuries rose in 2009, but the increase is primarily due to more accident reporting by industry members, according to the reports.

In 2009, two construction-related fatalities were due to a worker falling - one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. Both workers had not properly used a required harness in either of these cases. The third fatality was due to the collapse of a concrete wall in Staten Island. In 2008, eight of the 19 construction-related fatalities were due to a worker falling, prompting the DOB to launch a multi-lingual worker safety campaign that distributed thousands of posters, brochures and banners to construction sites across the city encouraging workers to wear their safety harnesses. Nine of the deaths in 2008 were the result of two devastating crane collapses in Manhattan which also prompted a review of the city’s crane regulations.

The total number of reported overall construction accidents rose from 151 in 2008 to 224 in 2009, and the total number of reported injuries rose from 178 in 2008 to 246 in 2009. LiMandri attributes those increases to a greater understanding of the importance of construction safety and protocol throughout the industry. Last year, DOB inspectors issued nearly 10,000 full and partial Stop Work Orders when unsafe construction conditions were found.

“Construction is critical to our economic future, but there is no reason why it cannot be done safely,” added LiMandri. “A safer construction site means a safer city.”