An Alarming Report on Construction Worker Fatalities in New York
On May 11, 2015, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health unveiled alarming findings from their latest study, "Price of Live: 2015 Report on Construction Fatalities in NYC". The study found that construction accounts for 20% of on the job fatalities in New York State although it accounts for less than 4% of employment, it represents 20% of on the job fatalities in New York State.
Other key findings involve fatalities resulting from falls at construction sites.Falls from deadly heights make up half of the construction fatalities in New York State and 71% of all injuries in New York City. The inspection fail rate of roofing and siding contractors had an inordinately high rate of 80%. Forty-two percent of falls to a lower level were from heights of at least 30 feet, compared to 19 percent nationwide, an indication that construction work is more likely to be at greater heights and more hazardous in New York.
Immigrant and/or Latino workers and non-union workers are at the greatest risk of death – in 2012 79% of fatal fall construction accidents occurred at nonunion construction sites and 60% of fatal fall victims were immigrant and/or Latino.
It is galling that notwithstanding that violations in New York are routine – two-thirds of OSHA construction inspections in New York between 2010 and 2012 resulted in citations for “serious” safety violations, 89% of contractors working on affordable housing projects have OSHA violations, OSHA has only 71 inspectors to monitor all worksites in all industries in New York City, and OSHA fines for criminal contractors are little more than a slap on the wrist. The average penalty for fatal height-related construction accidents in 2012 was only $7,620.
Perhaps more galling is that a push has been made in the New York State Legislature to ease the construction worker safety protections provided in the Labor Law. Amongst the arguments advanced in favor of loosening the Labor Law protections is that it is causing the costs of insurance premiums to rise. Yet the insurance industry refuses to open its books to verify if their cries of woe are true, a situation that the legislature is attempting to deal with in the proposed "Sunshine Bill" (A.4718/S.3392) that would enact the Construction Insurance Transparency Act of 2015.
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) was founded 35 years ago and is a membership organization of workers, unions, community-based organizations, workers’ rights activists, and health and safety professionals. NYCOSH uses training, education, and advocacy to improve health and safety conditions in our workplaces, our communities, and our environment.
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