Why Are Sidewalk Sheds Dangerous?


Empty bus stop along a street on a cloudy autumn morning

If you don’t live in New York, then you might not be aware of the problems involving sidewalk sheds. These constructions found on many sidewalks are frequently poorly maintained and pose a safety risk to pedestrians and construction workers.

Sidewalk sheds are meant to protect pedestrians, but they can quickly pose a safety hazard if they aren’t properly cared for. Unfortunately, some of them are left out for several years and will inevitably get neglected. This can cause a serious injury or worse for an unsuspecting victim.

We’ll go over what sidewalk sheds are and how they’re hazardous below so that you can remember to be careful anytime you’re near one.

What Is a Sidewalk Shed?

You’ll first need to have a clear understanding of what sidewalk sheds are to appreciate the dangers involving them.

Sidewalk sheds are constructions built around buildings during construction or demolition. In New York, they must be created for new buildings greater than 40 feet or for the demolition of buildings taller than 25 feet.

They are typically made of metal bars and plywood to create a safe zone for pedestrians on the sidewalk. When construction is underway, falling materials and debris can create a hazard for those passing by. To combat this, a sidewalk shed allows pedestrians to walk through the area without any risk of injury.

Sidewalk sheds are meant to be purely temporary, meaning they are removed once construction is finished. Upon installment, these crafts are typically safe and don’t cause a serious issue.

A permit is required to install a shed and this lasts for a year. After this period, it must be renewed to legally keep the shed standing.

The problems result down the road when construction never finishes or the shed is left standing for another reason. This is important because neglected sidewalk sheds are what lead to injuries.

Are They Helpful?

Knowing that sidewalk sheds are meant to protect nearby pedestrians, the question of whether they are safe is important to answer. Something that is created with the intention of safety should inherently be safe, but that’s not necessarily the case with sidewalk sheds.

When they are installed properly and structurally sound, there isn’t any safety hazard posed by a sidewalk shed. They do prevent debris from falling and hitting someone passing by and this is their intention.

However, the real problem stems from sidewalk sheds that stand for more than a year. It’s extremely unlikely that anyone is actively tending to the structure of a sidewalk shed and ensuring its safety once it is erected.

Because of this, the longer that a sidewalk shed stands, the more dangerous it becomes. Sheds inevitably deteriorate over time and become far less safe.

Bars can fall off, screws may loosen, and any portion of it can get damaged. If any of this happens, the shed is no longer safe and can pose a serious threat to anyone walking underneath.

What makes this problem relevant is that many sidewalk sheds do get left up longer than a year and some for more than a decade.

What Accidents Can Happen?

With unattended sidewalk sheds, numerous injuries can result.

If part of the structure is falling apart, a loose bar can fall and hit someone walking underneath. Alternatively, a broken piece of the shed can cause someone to fall if they don’t notice it.

More traumatically, there’s the possibility of a sidewalk shed collapsing entirely. This is a devastating scenario because it can crush a pedestrian and cause serious injury.

As a pedestrian, you can never fully understand which sidewalk sheds are safe and which ones are in danger of falling apart. This can create a sense of fear anytime you need to walk under one.

Do your best to avoid walking under sidewalk sheds if you have the option because an injury is never worth trying to take a shortcut. The older a shed is, the greater your risk of sustaining an injury.

Closing Thoughts

Sidewalk sheds are safety crafts installed on sidewalks next to buildings undergoing construction. They’re meant to be temporary and prevent pedestrians from getting hit by any falling construction materials.

When sidewalk sheds are used temporarily, they usually aren’t dangerous and serve their purpose well. Those that last longer than a year become problematic because it means they aren’t being maintained.

Neglected sidewalk sheds are incredibly dangerous because they are no longer structurally sound. This poses multiple risks for injury, the worst of which includes a scenario where the shed completely collapses on any pedestrians walking underneath it.

Until stricter regulations are imposed on sidewalk sheds, do your best to steer clear of them so you don’t become an unsuspecting victim.

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