The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) recently released a report which outlines the very real dangers construction workers face. The report explores the situations that lead to construction worker fatalities, and provides recommendations to prevent future injuries and fatalities. Below are a sample of key findings.
Fatal falls continue to be the top cause of construction fatalities in both New York State and New York City. In all of New York State in the past ten years, 187 workers died in falls, which account for 49% of all construction fatalities. In New York City alone, over the past ten years, 78 workers died due to falls, which on average accounted for 46% of all construction deaths and 55% of construction deaths in 2017.
OSHA construction fines for fatality cases remain low. The average fine amount by OSHA in 2017 cases involving the death of a construction worker was just $21,644. Maximum allowable OSHA fine amounts increased by 78 percent on August 1, 2016, the first increase in 26 years; but this increased allowable fine amount has not led to increases in actual fines against employers.
Non-union job sites are especially dangerous for workers. NYCOSH analyzed OSHA’s 30 investigated construction fatality citations in calendar year 2017 and found that in New York State, 86.7 of workers who died on private worksites were non-union. In New York City, 92.9% of the 2017 construction workers who died on private worksites were non-union. In New York State, federal OSHA only inspects worker fatalities on private worksites.
New York’s construction industry continues to be highly dangerous for workers, with high fatality numbers and high rates of fatalities in New York State. In 2017, the most recent data year available, 69 construction workers died in New York State, exemplifying a five-year trend of increasing fatalities in the State. New York State’s construction fatality rate has increased by 39% in the past five years.
NYCOCH’s recommendations include:
- Pass Carlos’ Law to increase penalties against criminal contractors.
- Expand criminal prosecutions of contractors statewide.
- Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors.
- Increase the role of New York State in protecting construction worker safety given OSHA’s inadequacies.
“Carlos’ Law, known officially as S.4373B in the state Senate, would increase fines and penalties against a developer who “ignores, disregards or fails” to follow safety protocols in such a way as to directly contribute to the injury or death of a construction worker. It is named for Carlos Moncayo, who was 22 when an unreinforced trench caved in on him in Manhattan in 2015, burying him alive. The company, Harco Construction, was convicted of manslaughter and negligent homicide charges.” -Queens Chronicle
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