New York City received more new building project permits for demolitions last year, but also saw a year-to-year rise in the number of construction site incidents, injuries, and worker deaths in 2022, according to a report recently released by the New York City Dept. of Buildings.
“We must acknowledge that as important as this increased construction activity is for our city, it also comes with potential hazards when the proper safeguards are not implemented,” Kazimir Vilenchik, the department’s acting commissioner, said in a statement.
Released on April 15, the 2022 New York City Construction Safety Report found that injuries on building construction sites increased by 9.7% compared to 2021. The report found 751 construction-related incidents, 554 injuries, and 11 fatalities in 2022, up from 712 construction-related incidents in 2021, along with 505 injuries and nine fatalities.
“While these incidents are occurring much less frequently than in years past,” Vilenchik said, “we are ringing the alarm that this year’s report highlights a new trend that must be reversed.”
The number of demolition permits increased by 15% in 2022 over the previous year. The city uses demolition permits as an indicator of future construction trends since new development follows the demolition of older buildings.
The building project permit increase is attributed partly to developers looking to obtain permits prior to the implementation of the 2022 NYC Construction Code in November 2022, and meeting the expiration deadline of the 421-a tax program in June 2022.
The most building projects in 2022 are in Brooklyn with 1,176 permitted projects. Staten Island was issued 954 permits.
Initial permits for projects in 2022 increased by 11% compared to the year before, and there was a 122% increase in initial new building project permits.
Half or more of constructed-related fatalities in New York City during the last two years were caused by falls. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has reported that falls are the leading cause of death in the industry in New York City and throughout the nation. Nationwide, falls accounted for more than one in three 2022 constructed-related fatalities.
Nine of the 11 fatal incidents in 2022 were the result of worker falls at construction sites in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Manhattan. Vilenchik said safety training is key because city inspectors cannot always monitor every construction project in the city.
“It is the contractors, construction professionals, and construction workers who are responsible for adhering to both city and federal OSHA regulations,” he said.
The city implemented a new winter construction safety campaign in 2022 aimed at spreading awareness about falls and on-the-job injuries.
The safety campaign, which continues through spring months, includes citywide enforcement sweeps and educational outreach at active building construction work sites. The new campaign was launched in response to four tragic construction fatalities that occurred in separate building construction-related incidents in the months of November and December of 2022.
“Every member of this department mourns this terrible loss,” Vilenchik said. “But mourning is not enough—it needs to be followed by action on multiple fronts—the department, building owners, contractors, and workers must all do their part to promote safety on the work site.”