July 14, 2014

NY Construction Workers Exposed to Unsafe Worksites Due to Alleged Falsified Inspection Reports

By Jonathan Damashek

Posted in

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New York construction workers were endangered at more than 40 worksites because two companies that were supposed to inspect construction sites for safety hazards allegedly falsified hundreds of inspection documents, according to the New York Daily News.  If true, that’s outrageous!

It took a sharp eye to catch the signature of a dead man on New York City construction safety reports. But it led to the recent indictment of two companies on charges of routinely lying on inspection documents at construction sites across the City.

Avanti Building Consultants of Staten Island, NYCB Engineering of Queens and seven employees were indicted after a year-long probe by the city’s Department of Investigation.

Their task was to keep workers from being injured at Manhattan building sites. But instead of following the rules, they used short-order cooks, hotel bellhops, hairdressers and musicians as “runners” to visit job sites and sign off on safety logs with their own names or those of site safety managers, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

Avanti is accused of using the signature of a site safety manager on some of its documents in the summer of 2013 – months after the site safety manager had died. A city inspector noticed discrepancies in documents and tried to contact the site safety manager but reached his widow instead.

The district attorney’s office charged that the companies had endangered the lives of workers and passersby at the job sites.

In all, the two companies are accused of falsifying 450 documents at 40 sites, stretching from Fifth Avenue luxury apartments and an office building close to Wall Street to a Gramercy Park apartment building, the newspaper reported.

As construction accident attorneys, we see firsthand the harm that unsafe construction sites cause hard-working construction workers. We act aggressively to hold accountable those who cause preventable accidents.

Construction-site safety has been a point of contention in New York City for several years. New York City jobsite accidents increased from 119 in fiscal 2011 to 157 in fiscal 2012.  The number of injuries jumped from 128 to 187, according to a New York Daily News report last year.

In addition, 40 people died in construction accidents in the New York metro area in 2011, up from 28 the year before. The metro area includes New Jersey and Long Island.

The NYC Department of Buildings has enacted 25 laws over the past six years to promote compliance among contractors.

The rules include:

  • A ban on worksite smoking.
  • Required registration with the department for contractors doing certain types of construction, demolition and concrete work.
  • Uniform color-coding on sprinklers and standpipes.

But questions have been raised about the city’s ability to oversee meaningful inspections of construction sites. According to the Daily News, safety managers with NYCB Engineering said they had inspected 14 sites a day, despite city rules that require them to spend two hours a day at a work site.

The inspector whose sharp eye led to the recent investigation and indictments should be commended, along with the district attorney’s office for taking action. But the fact that this could happen at all points to a larger problem with the protection of construction workers and the public.

As New York construction accident lawyers, we work to make worksites safer by filing lawsuits that call attention to dangerous work conditions.