A new report released in January 2017 revealed that construction deaths in New York are on the rise and that non-union construction sites are particularly dangerous for workers. Construction fatalities are frequently caused by falls, and noted the disproportionate impact unsafe job sites have on immigrant construction workers. According to the report, Latinos made up 57 percent of fall fatalities in New York State; 33 percent died on sites with willful violations, as opposed to five percent of non-Latinos.
New Report Releases Statistics
The report prepared by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) is titled “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State”, and states fatalities are “trending upward.” Falls account for 49 percent of construction fatalities in New York State and 59 percent of deaths in New York City, with falls being the leading cause of construction site deaths.
The report also shows that risks are greater at non-union construction sites. In 2014, 80 percent of deaths at construction sites occurred on non-union sites. In 2015, 74 percent of fatalities were at non-union sites. The report also revealed that in 2014, non-union construction sites had twice the amount of safety violation when compared to union sites.
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In construction sites inspected by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in 2014, 68 percent (two-thirds) had safety violations. Despite the fact that safety violations were heavily related to construction deaths, the penalties for safety violations are small. The report states that almost all fatalities happened with employers who were violating health and safety laws. The report also discovered that employers who commit wage theft were more likely to violate health and safety regulations.
Among construction site deaths inspected by OSHA in 2014, 87 percent had safety violations, followed by 90 percent of fatality site violations found in 2015. Although only 30 percent of construction workers are Latino, they accounted for 57 percent of deaths in 2015.
Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH remarked on the findings in a January 18, 2017 press release, “We need to take action now to end the crisis of rising construction fatalities in New York State. These deaths are almost always preventable and occur on non-union job sites 80% of the time. Latino workers compose the majority of fall fatalities – 57% in 2015; and there is a strong correlation between employers who steal workers’ wages and who force workers to work under unsafe conditions.”
Steps to Protect Construction Workers
Taking into consideration the findings in the recent report, NYCOSH made a number of recommendations to protect workers from construction site accidents and deaths. The organization calls for additional training to prevent common injuries and fatalities. The report recommended OSHA 10 or equivalent training for New York City construction workers. The 10-hour program educates workers on the most common construction site dangers for all New York City construction workers. Currently, OSHA 10 is only required for workers on buildings 10 stories or higher, or with footprints greater than 100,000 square feet. For large construction sites, workers should be required to undergo apprenticeship programs, according to the report.
Recommended Legislation for Construction Worker Safety
The report also cites several pieces of legislation dealing with construction worker safety, and called for them to be defended and extended. For example, the New York Scaffold Safety Law holds building site owners responsible for construction accidents caused by unsafe conditions at elevated worksites. The report calls for the act to be continued.
In addition, NYCOSH calls for the following pieces of legislation to be passed: The Construction Insurance Transparency Act that requires insurers to publicly disclose information about premiums, The Elevator Safety Act that ensures elevator work is done safely by licensed workers, and Criminal Contractors legislation, which seeks stricter penalties for employers who violate safety laws, preventing worker death due to negligence.
Safety and wage violations are also being addressed by NYCOSH, calling for new enforcement strategies. In addition, the report findings ramp up the need to proactively protect Latino workers from construction site accidents.
“The fact that 464 construction workers died on the job in the past 10 years is unacceptable,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “Workers have been falling out of the sky at alarming rates and it is time we do something about it.”
Information about Filing a Construction Site Accident Lawsuit
If you or someone you know has been injured in a construction accident, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact our personal injury lawyers at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).