Construction’s various trades have always ranked near the top of official fatal work injury statistics, but the industry has seemingly only gotten more dangerous in recent years. New York City has been hit particularly hard by this growing crisis, as total injuries have skyrocketed from 128 to 435 between 2011-2015. Between 2015 and 2016, 31 NYC construction workers tragically lost their lives in work accidents.
A 58-year old Brooklyn man named Sirajul Hoque is the latest victim. The man fell three stories from a piece of loose scaffolding outside of a building in East Flatbush, Brooklyn on June 18, 2017. Police said he suffered severe head trauma in the fall. The FDNY made the determination that loose scaffolding was to blame, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation into the matter.
Activists Demand Better Construction Safety Standards
As fatal construction accidents have become more and more common, construction workers have gathered together to voice their concerns. Workers and other activists feel that construction site owners, supervisors, and project managers cut corners to save money, and jeopardize the lives of their workers in the process.
One major point of concern is the hiring of nonunion workers. An OSHA report found that 80% of fatal construction accidents in 2015 and 2016 happened on nonunion job sites. Union leaders argue that these nonunion sites are unsafe because of inadequate training and hiring standards.
The same report found that 90% of fatal accidents occurred on job sites which had safety violations. These sites are notoriously under-regulated – OSHA inspections dropped from 2,722 to 1,966 in the same period of 2011-2015, when construction fatalities have steadily been on the rise. Construction workers have had enough of the disregard for worker safety and have taken to the streets to make their voices heard.
Friends & Colleagues Demonstrate At Hoque’s Funeral
58-year old Sirajul Hoque’s funeral was the latest site of a protest for better construction worker safety procedures. Friends, colleagues, and activists came together with signs, chants, and press coverage to call attention to this tragic and preventable death – one of far too many in recent years.
Demonstrators held picket signs with slogans such as “Human Lives Over Profit” and facts like “150 U.S. Workers Die Each Day From Hazardous Working Conditions”. Advocacy group leaders voiced their frustrations to the press. Christian Fox, from the New Immigrant Community Empower group told one New York Daily News reporter: “Even when these employers are held accountable for their negligence on worksites, the max penalty is a $10,000 fine which is another condo for a lot of these employers.”
When confronted by the press, Hoque’s employer declined to comment on whether he’d financially compensate Hoque’s family for their loved one’s death. Hoque was a husband and a father of two children. His family still lives in Bangladesh. This man worked hard every day to send money back home to his family – he, like far too many victims of serious construction site accidents, deserved better from his employer.
NYPD Arrests Construction Worker Protesters
In January 2017, hundreds of construction workers gathered outside of NYC City Hall to call for stricter safety regulations. 31 of them laid down in the middle of the street in an act of civil disobedience, and were arrested by the NYPD. The workers were dressed in black hardhats and black sweatshirts, each with a red number symbolizing one of the 31 colleagues who died in two years. Some of them carried mock gravestone signs reading “Deceased Construction Worker: Causes of Death – Greed, Exploitation”.
At the front of the demonstration was a banner reading “#HowManyMoreMustDie”. The backs of their sweatshirts shared the same phrase, with splatters of red symbolizing blood. The group of approximately 300 chanted the same slogan.
The group was calling for the signing of a package of 19 construction safety bills which had been unveiled by the City Council hours before the protest.
Thousands Of Construction Workers Protest Outside City Hall In Manhattan
In December 2015, thousands of New York City construction workers rallied outside of City Hall in Manhattan. The workers wore all black and carried a row of eight black, empty coffins to protest worker deaths caused by unsafe worksites. These workers rallied in opposition to nonunion sites and for stricter training procedures and safety regulations. Early protests like this one have helped city officials propose legislation regarding construction safety, but there is still much work to be done.
How Can Negligent Construction Employers Be Held Accountable?
The right to protest is one of the most fundamental principles of American democracy. For generations, groups of oppressed and marginalized individuals have gathered together in mass to call attention to various injustices. This has included many labor groups, unions, and workers rights groups who decided to use their collective power to demand better treatment. The recent New York City construction worker protests are just the latest in this tradition.
Protests have the ability to affect real change in the workplace. They garner attention from the media, which puts more pressure on negligent construction site owners to better address safety. Government officials also take note of these demonstrations, and may draft legislation to better address the needs of their constituents.
How The Civil Court System Can Help
Families who have been affected by a serious construction site injury or fatal accident may also seek justice through the civil court system. A personal injury lawsuit against negligent construction site owners and project managers may not erase a serious injury or bring back a loved one – but legal action can help in other ways.
Families in this situation are saddled with a variety of expenses and noneconomic damages which require compensation, such as medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. Worker’s compensation will provide for medical expenses (up until policy limits) and a portion of lost wages. Personal injury lawsuits provide additional compensation and often make headlines, which will call more attention to this growing issue. As more activists take to the streets and more surviving families take legal action, the authorities who have the ability to address this issue will feel more pressed to make changes.
While you may never stop grieving for a loved one taken in a preventable accident, you can help make sure that other families don’t have to go through the same painful experience and make sure your family doesn’t have to worry about money after your loved one has passed. At Banville Law, we think it’s important to use our legal resources to protect workers’ rights. That’s why we’re proud to represent injured workers of all types, including the surviving families of fatal work accident victims. We understand the anguish you may be feeling right now – that’s why we’re prepared to fight for you, while you focus on spending time with your loved ones.