The Unspoken Truth: Senior Leaders' Role in Construction Accidents

This article explores the critical role senior leaders play in preventing construction accidents, emphasizing their responsibility in fostering a culture of safety. Highlighting tragic accidents in New York and Australia, we outline practical steps for leaders to ensure worker safety, from leading by example to leveraging innovative safety incentives like Scratchie.
March 22, 2023
James Kell
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The New York Crane Collapse: A Wake-Up Call for the Construction Industry

In May 2008, as the world was preparing for the Beijing Olympics, a construction site in New York City became the site of a tragic accident. A crane collapsed, killing two workers and injuring several others.

The incident rocked the city and raised questions about the safety practices of the construction company and its leaders.

New York Crane Collapse 2008

The construction company, New York Crane and Equipment Corp, was found to have failed to properly maintain the crane and had hired an unlicensed operator.

The company's president, James Lomma, and the crane's mechanic, Tibor Varganyi, were both charged with manslaughter and other crimes.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Lomma had cut corners on safety to save money, and that Varganyi had lied about his qualifications to operate the crane. Both men were found guilty and sentenced to prison.

The tragic crane collapse in New York City serves as a stark reminder of the critical role that senior leaders play in ensuring the safety of workers on construction sites.

Construction sites are inherently risky environments, where accidents can occur at any time. However, what is not often talked about is the role that senior leaders play in these accidents.

The Eagle Farm Incident: A Harsh Lesson

Fast forward to 2016, and the Eagle Farm Racecourse in Brisbane, Australia became the site of a tragic incident.

Construction workers Ashley Morris, 34, and Humberto Leite, 55, were working on a foul-water drainage tank when disaster struck.

Prior to the accident, some workers had walked off the job due to safety concerns.

Despite this, the project continued with makeshift measures, including the use of a sewage pipe for bracing 14-tonne concrete panels.

On that unfortunate day, two concrete slabs toppled over, crushing and instantly killing Morris and Leite.

Investigations revealed that Brisbane construction company Criscon had failed to ensure the safety of the workers, and several individuals, including subcontractor Claudio D'Alessandro, Criscon site manager Michael Crisci, and crane operator Collin James Young, faced charges in connection with the tragedy.

Eagle Farm tragedy 2017
A sobering reminder: The Eagle Farm incident underscores the crucial significance of safety protocols and responsible leadership within the construction industry.

The devastating incident at Eagle Farm serves as a sombre reminder of the responsibility that senior leaders bear in maintaining safety standards and protocols on construction sites.

Six Essential Steps for Senior Managers to Strengthen Construction Site Safety

1. Lead by Example:

Senior leaders must model safe behaviours and prioritise safety in all of their decisions and actions.

This means taking the time to properly train workers, identifying and mitigating potential hazards, and encouraging workers to speak up if they notice any safety concerns.

2. Communicate Effectively:

Effective communication is critical to ensuring safety on construction sites. Senior leaders must make sure that workers are properly trained and have a clear understanding of safety protocols and procedures.

Leaders must also encourage workers to speak up if they have any safety concerns, and create an environment where workers feel comfortable doing so.

3. Conduct Regular Safety Audits:

Regular safety audits are an essential tool for identifying potential hazards and ensuring that safety protocols are being followed. Senior leaders should conduct these audits regularly and take prompt action to address any issues that are identified.

Mining site inspection

4. Provide Proper Resources:

Providing workers with the proper resources and equipment is essential to protecting their safety on construction sites.

This includes providing proper safety gear, training, and equipment, as well as ensuring that workers have access to the necessary resources to do their jobs safely.

5. Foster a Culture of Safety:

Creating a culture of safety is essential to reducing the chances of accidents on construction sites.

This involves not only implementing safety protocols and procedures but also fostering an environment where workers feel comfortable speaking up about safety concerns.

Senior leaders must prioritise safety and ensure that their actions and decisions reflect this priority.

6. Encourage Safety through Incentives:

Finally, senior leaders can encourage safety by creating incentives for workers to prioritise safety in their work.

Platforms like Scratchie offer real-time safety rewards for workers who complete tasks safely, reinforcing the importance of safety and incentivizing workers to take an active role in creating a safe working environment.


Construction sites are inherently risky environments, where accidents can occur at any time. However, senior leaders of construction companies play a critical role in ensuring the safety of workers on their construction sites.

The tragic incidents at New York City and Eagle Farm serve as stark reminders of the importance of safety in the construction industry.

By leading by example, communicating effectively, conducting regular safety audits, providing proper resources, fostering a culture of safety, and encouraging safety, senior leaders can reduce the chances of accidents on construction sites and protect the well-being of workers.

Safety must be a top priority for all construction companies, and it is the responsibility of senior leaders to ensure that safety protocols and procedures are being followed and that workers are protected from harm.

Platforms like Scratchie offer innovative solutions for incentivizing safety and encouraging workers to take an active role in creating a safe working environment. By embracing new technologies and prioritising safety, senior leaders can create a safer, more productive, and more successful construction industry.

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