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February 13, 2018
Report reveals uptick in NY construction fatalities

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) has released its latest construction fatality findings. “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State” cites “alarming increases in New York State construction fatalities.” The document also notes that “employers routinely violate legal regulations with impunity.”

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Other findings:

  • In 2016, New York State had a 60% higher construction fatality rate than New York City. Over the past 5 years, the city’s fatality rate in construction decreased by 21.3%, while the state rate increased by 29.5%.
  • 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 worksites were non-union. In the city, that figure was 93.8%.
  • Falls continue to be the top cause of construction fatalities in New York State and New York City. Over the past decade statewide 218 workers died in falls, or 48% of all construction fatalities. In the city over the past 10 years, 101 workers died due to falls, or about 46% of all construction deaths.
  • Enforcement agencies are drastically underfunded. NYCOSH conducted an in-depth analysis of inspections since OSHA’s founding and found “a staggering decrease in inspections over the past 20 years.”
  • OSHA construction fines for fatality cases remain low. NYCOSH says that average OSHA fines in construction fatality cases decreased by 7%, to $20,217.

Among recommendations, the NYCOSH document lists:

  • Require construction training and certification for New York State’s construction workers.
  • Establish funding streams for construction safety training programs in New York City, especially to benefit low-wage, immigrant workers.
  • Ensure corporate responsibility for worker fatalities.
  • Expand criminal prosecutions statewide when failure to protect workers rises to the level of a criminal offense.
  • Use existing city powers to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors.
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