On March 28, 2022, the Department of Buildings released its next construction safety report for the calendar year 2021. The report highlights and provides analysis for safety trends across the city, provides data regarding incidents and provides descriptions of significant construction incidents, including all nine construction-related fatalities from 2021.
The report includes data about overall construction activity citywide and broken down by borough. The number of total permits issued, both initial and renewed, jumped from 147,760 to 168,423. The initial new building permits filed increased from 1,318 to 1,683 between 2020 to 2021. Manhattan had the largest number of total permits issued at 63,320; Queens had the largest number of new buildings filed at 573; and Brooklyn had the largest number of Certificates of Occupancy issued, with 2,053. All boroughs saw increases in all categories over the prior year.
The report breaks down the numbers of incidents at construction sites that required notification to the Department of Buildings for subsequent investigation, and the numbers of injuries and fatalities. Overall, there was a decrease in total incidents over the prior year, a trend that has continued from 2018. In 2018, there were 1,193 incidents. In 2020, a year where non-essential construction was restricted due to the pandemic, there were 796 incidents reported to the Department of Buildings. In 2021, as construction projects grew, there were only 712 incidents.
Injuries only slightly increased to 505 in 2021 from 502 in 2020. Tragically, there were a similar number of fatalities, with eight in 2020 and nine in 2021. However, these figures were still overall improvements compared to 2018, when there were 759 injuries and thirteen fatalities.
Overall, this indicated that while there are fewer incidents overall, those incidents that occur are resulting in slightly more injuries. According to the report, seven of the nine fatalities in 2021 were from worker falls, and worker falls increased overall from 159 in 2020 to 205 in 2021.
Data included in this report can help inform future policymaking to make construction sites safer. The report outlines actions taken by both the Department of Buildings and the City Council to improve construction safety, including the results of the Department of Buildings’ summer safety site inspection campaign and legislation passed by the City Council that expanded the number of work sites subject to required dedicated safety supervision and other improvements.
To read the full report, click here.
Acting Buildings Commissioner Constadino “Gus” Sirakis, P.E., stated, “Construction remains a bedrock industry in our growing City, and we owe it to our fellow New Yorkers to continue to push for safer work sites for the benefit of all New Yorkers. For the second year in a row, we are publishing a comprehensive report on building construction safety, so we can better track incidents and understand why they occur. Data analysis like this is a critical part of our strategy to help our industry partners properly safeguard their work sites.”
Council Member Pierina Sanchez, Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, stated, “Our construction workers build our city from the ground and are essential in our City’s development. While construction safety has improved over the past years following important regulatory changes and stronger enforcement, there is much more to be done because the loss of even one life is one too many. This report gives us critical data needed to determine where our city makes improvements and drastically reduce injuries and reach zero fatalities. I look forward to working with the Department of Buildings to strengthen our codes and enforcement to continue to surpass our current standards for construction safety regulations.”
By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)