Construction worker deaths are on the rise in New York, according to a recent report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). Between 2006 and 2015, a total of 464 construction workers died on the job across the state, with fatality rates trending upward.
In a related press release on the report, Patrick Purcell, Executive Director of the Greater New York Laborer-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust stated, “The ‘Deadly Skyline’ report illustrates yet again what we know to be true: preventable construction fatalities are on the rise in New York City and the only way to end this epidemic is with training and safety requirements for all workers.”
Report Finds Construction Fatalities Trending Upward
According to the report, falls remain the top cause of construction deaths in New York. A total of 49 percent of construction deaths in the state and 59 percent of deaths in New York City were caused by falls.
Most of these falls could have been prevented. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides regulations about the proper construction and scaffolding and the proper use of personal protective equipment that help keep workers safe. The NYCOSH recommended legislation that would include more training for construction workers and mandatory apprenticeship programs.
Construction remains the most dangerous industry in the country when considering the number of fatalities, and according to this report, the second deadliest for workers in New York. (The agricultural industry is first.)
The rate of construction fatalities in New York State is nearly four times that of the overall fatality rate in the state. The city fared even worse, with the construction sector seeing 34 percent of workplace deaths, compared to Los Angeles at 32 percent and Chicago at 24 percent.
Perhaps the most concerning news are that the fatalities are increasing. The rate has risen nearly 40 percent over the past five years, and could not be explained by an increase in the construction industry, itself.
Employers Not Providing Proper Training and Equipment
In another section of the report, investigators revealed that employers are violating the law. In 2014, more than 66 percent of OSHA construction site inspections revealed that employers were violating OSHA safety standards.
The most common safety issue was the failure to prevent falls. Over 46 percent of nearly 4,000 safety violations were related to fall protection, scaffold safety, and stairway/ladder safety.
Critics say that the fines levied in these situations, which averaged about $3,673, were too low. OSHA penalties increased last August, however, so those amounts will go up.
NYCOSH Recommends Increased Monitoring and Enforcement
As a result of the findings, the NYCOSH has called for expansion of the OSHA 10-hour construction safety-training program. This program trains workers on the most common hazards they will face on the job, yet currently, it’s required only for workers on buildings that are 10 stories or higher.
The NYCOSH has also called for more legislation and increased monitoring and enforcing of the laws. They recommended preservation of New York’s Scaffold Safety Law, which holds employers liable when unsafe conditions at elevated worksites cause worker injuries and deaths.