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New York sidewalk sheds a hazard for construction workers

Anyone who has walked around New York City for any amount of time can tell you about the sidewalk sheds. For the uninitiated, they’re miniature scaffoldings, usually fashioned out of scraps of plywood that are supposed to shield pedestrians from falling debris from a construction site overhead. They’re ubiquitous; since 1998, their numbers have ballooned to almost 10,000.

The problem is, when you look at the statistics, there’s little evidence that they’re actually working. In the past three years, 39 construction workers and pedestrians have been injured by either falling debris or faulty sheds. New York requires construction companies to put them up whenever any remodeling, demolition or construction is going on, but a recent investigation seems to point out that the city has been lax in enforcing regulations regarding the sheds.

There was a safety team of 14 in charge of this in 2009, but their numbers have been reduced to 9. Because of this, the number of sheds cited for violations has dropped precipitously from the 855 they cited in 2009, to only 337 in 2013. The team was originally formed in 2007 and, after a rash of accidents around the city, they conducted a 30-day blitz, inspecting 1,600 sheds during that time. Of those 1,600, a shocking 28 percent were cited for violations.

Experts now say you’d be better off crossing the street instead of walking underneath them. Unfortunately, construction workers don’t have any choice in working with them. When they are injured in a scaffolding accident, workers’ compensation is meant to take care of any medical expenses, but that’s not always the case.

When benefits are denied, a New York attorney may need to be brought in to fight for their rights.

Source:, “New York City's Shoddy Sidewalk Sheds Are Disasters Waiting To Happen,” Sebastien Malo, June 3, 2014

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