According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bronx has seen its population increase from 1,385,108 in 2010, up to 1,455,444 in 2015. With a population increasing at a rapid pace, Bronx construction on new residential housing has seen a dramatic increase. In fact, the entire New York City area has seen an increase in residential construction, but New York City has also seen a rise in unsafe conditions that are becoming hazardous to workers.
The New York Daily News reports that 18 construction workers in New York City died between October 2014 and September 2015. That is a rise from 12 the previous year, and seven the year before that. The increase in Bronx construction is partly to blame for the increase in deaths, but poor job management is more to blame than the workers.
The Case Of The Bronx Job Site
A seven-story Bronx apartment building that was scheduled to open up 25 new housing units to the borough’s residents when it opens. But when residents in the Bronx neighborhood where the building was going up saw the construction crew at work, it is the unsafe conditions that bothered them more than the pace of construction.
ABC7NY television news reports that this particular Bronx construction has been operating with unsafe conditions since it started. After tens of thousands of dollars in fines and one general contractor thrown off the job by the city’s Department of Buildings, government officials assumed the problems were solved. However, it wasn’t until ABC7NY brought the poor job management practices of the developer to the attention of the city that a stop work order was finally issued in March 2016.
The current contractor for the site is the non-union company New York Fast, but the company claims that it does not have any workers on the site. The building owner and developer Ray Kahn appears to be bringing in his own workers, and those workers are putting themselves in danger every day.
According to video footage collected by the news producers, workers are seen walking over narrow areas without harnesses, and moving heavy materials to different parts of the job without the right type of equipment. Union experts indicated that these practices could get workers killed, and that is when the city issued the stop work order.
The Building Owner Is Defiant
Just before the stop work order was issued, building owner Ray Kahn was confronted by ABC7NY and asked to watch video footage of his workers in dangerous situations. Kahn refused to watch the videos and insisted that his job site was safe. Thanks to the persistence of the news company, the site was eventually shut down before any of the non-union workers were hurt, and the site cannot be re-opened until proper safety measures are put in place by job management.
The Workers Are Not The Only People At Risk
As ABC7NY was compiling its report, many of the residents surrounding the job site expressed concern about the working conditions. The negligent contractor seemed satisfied to put his workers at risk to get the job done but did not take the residents into account.
Unsafe working conditions can cause problems for residents as well as workers. Any equipment or heavy materials that are improperly transported or used could become falling hazards for people walking by the site, or people who live near the site. Thankfully there were no injuries in this situation, but the city did not want to leave that possibility to chance. That is what inspired the stop work order to be issued almost immediately after the news story aired.
Why The Unsafe Conditions?
According to the union construction experts that talked to the news reporters, contractors take risks to save money on project costs. Although in this case, the tens of thousands of dollars in city fines that the contractors involved have paid would certainly make them question if the savings were really worth it.
When contractors try to save money, one of the first places they look is worker safety. By not investing extra time and money into training and properly equipping workers, negligent contractors create dangerous situations for workers and the residents that live around the job sites. For more about this see our previous blog about unions combating these issues here.
Thanks to the work of a television news team, this site in the Bronx has been stopped before someone was seriously injured. But with the number of construction projects on the rise and the city struggling to bring in enough inspectors to handle the load, the chances are very high that this Bronx construction site might not be the last to make the local news for its unsafe conditions.