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Female construction worker wearing a mask against a wall outside.
Larry Alton
Freelance Writer

Construction is considered one of the most dangerous professions on earth. Despite the danger, many people are willing to accept the risks even though fatality rates are trending upward. For example, in New York, construction deaths have been increasing for several years.

The upward trend of fatalities is alarming, but thanks to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the risk of injury is even higher.

How the Coronavirus has Increased the Risk of Injury in Construction

All construction projects not deemed essential have been shut down. The definition of essential construction varies by state, but all medical facilities are considered essential across the U.S. along with critical city infrastructure.

While construction workers building medical facilities face the usual dangers in their profession, those dangers are amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.

Construction workers have to enter medical buildings to perform some of their work. The fear of contracting the virus from being inside is putting many on edge. When workers are stressed and worried about contracting the virus, they’re more likely to rush through their tasks. Rushing to get work done only increases the potential for injury.

Stressed Construction Workers are at High Risk of Falling

Even without the added stress of a pandemic, the top four causes of construction fatalities are falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and being caught in or in-between an object. Of these four, falls are the largest cause of death.

Construction workers do fall from ladders, but the most common fall is from scaffolding – one of construction’s core structures. Each year, hundreds of thousands of construction workers sustain injuries after falling from scaffolding. Many lose their lives.

Although dangerous, scaffolding is just a normal part of construction. However, in New York City, there are more construction sites, more workers, and more potential for falls. NYC also happens to be the center of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. This makes NYC construction workers more likely to be injured or die on the job during the COVID-19 crisis.

NYC Construction Workers are Having a Difficult Time with Social Distancing

Construction workers in NYC are already stressed and worried about contracting the virus, but they’re also having a hard time adhering to social distancing guidelines and protection rules. NYC construction workers are forbidden to share tools and must work in smaller groups. However, that’s not always practical or possible.

Anyone who has worked in construction knows that social distancing is impossible, especially when it comes to taking elevators to work on another floor. It’s just not practical to only allow one or two people to use the elevator at a time. That alone would postpone the job beyond the target deadline for completion.

Additionally, many tasks require at least two people. Construction workers are concerned about the officials coming up with alternative methods to get work done. Construction workers say their methods won’t work.

The Tension with Officials puts Construction Workers at Risk

Every source of stress contributes to a construction worker’s potential for injury or death. Currently, construction workers are still required to adhere to all the usual safety standards and regulations. They’re also required to meet additional requirements created in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of the new guidelines in the industry include:

  • Maintaining a minimum distance of six feet from others at all times
  • Wearing face shields and face masks when appropriate
  • Enforcing social distancing in “high-risk” areas where workers tend to gather, such as elevators, hoists, hallways, and break areas
  • Having a site-specific COVID-19 supervisor on site at all times to enforce all new guidelines
  • Staggering trades to maintain the 6-foot minimum distance required
  • Maintaining daily logs for all workers and visitors who come to the site

All of these regulations sound like reasonable precautions, but in the construction industry they’re not practical. Staggering trades to maintain a 6-foot distance between all workers will single-handedly slow down a project and delay completion.

Construction workers who are unable to adhere to the new requirements are stressed out because they don’t have a choice. They have to go to work or they won’t get paid. They’re not only risking their lives on the job, but they’re also risking contracting the virus and bringing it home to their family.

Stressed Out Construction Workers have Two Choices

Construction workers stressed out about the coronavirus have two choices. They can keep working and put themselves at risk, or they can try to find another job until things clear up. Neither option is ideal, but construction won’t go back to normal for quite some time. This might be the perfect opportunity for some to work their way into a less dangerous profession.

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