A new report by a state workplace safety watchdog highlights the deadly risks construction workers face in New York.
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released its latest construction fatality report, “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.” The report found increases in New York State construction fatalities stating that “employers routinely violate legal regulations with impunity.”
The organization’s members include workers, unions, community-based organizations, workers’ rights activists, and health and safety professionals.
The report’s key findings:
- In 2016, New York State had a 60% higher construction fatality rate than New York City. Over the past five years, the New York City fatal occupational injury rate in construction decreased by 21.3%, while the New York State rate increased by 29.5% over the same period of time.
- Non-union job sites are especially dangerous for workers. NYCOSH analyzed OSHA’s 36 investigated construction fatality citations in 2016 and found that in New York State, 94.7% of workers who died on private work sites were non-union. In New York City, 93.8% of construction workers who died on private work sites in 2016 were non-union.
- Falls continue to be the top cause of construction fatalities in New York State and New York City. In all of New York State in the past ten years, 218 workers died in falls, which accounted for 48% of all construction fatalities. In New York City alone, over the past ten years, 101 workers died due to falls, which on average accounted for 46% of all construction deaths.
- Enforcement agencies are drastically underfunded. NYCOSH conducted an in-depth analyses of OSHA inspections in New York State since OSHA’s founding and found a staggering decrease in inspections over the past twenty years.
- OSHA construction fines for fatality cases remain low. Average OSHA fines in construction fatality cases decreased by 7%, to $20,217.
The report, published in part by a grant provided by the New York State Department of Labor, offered a number of recommendations to improve worker safety in the state:
- Require construction training and certification for New York State’s construction workers. Municipalities and New York State need to create rigorous training requirements for construction workers.
- Establish funding streams for construction safety training programs in New York City. As the requirements for construction safety training increase, so should the funding to provide such training, especially to ensure that low-wage immigrant workers have the opportunity to access them.
- Preserve the Scaffold Safety Law. Given that fall-fatalities are the top cause of death on construction sites, this legislation must be defended in order to prevent such deaths.
- Pass Carlos’ Law to ensure corporate responsibility for worker fatalities.
- Expand criminal prosecutions statewide.
- Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors.