A new report entitled “ It’s No Accident, Examining New York’s Workplace Deaths and the Construction Industry” and published by the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) looks at deaths related to construction accidents in New York.
The reports starts with a list of the names of the 23 construction workers who died on the job in New York last year before providing a comprehensive review of the recent construction fatalities. The report demonstrates that construction has the highest rate of fatality among all industries and that the majority of people dying on the job are immigrants. Age is also an important factor in construction site fatalities: 37% of the workers who died were above 55 year old. Statistics also show that a quarter of the construction workers who died were self employed.
Because there are only 71 OSHA Health and Safety Inspectors in New York State, it is impossible for OSHA to adequately enforce construction site safety standards. Adding to that OSHA penalties are so low that they are not an incentive for employers to make the workplace safer. In 66% of the construction sites that OSHA inspected there was at least one violation of a safety standard. This high prevalence of safety violations in the construction industry is an indicator that many injuries and deaths were preventable.
Based on the above findings, NICOSH recommends not amending NY Labor Law Section 240 (Scaffold law) to hold employers accountable, to pass the New York State Elevator/Escalator Safety Bill to protect elevator and escalator workers and to increase the numbers of inspectors and inspections. NICOSH is also in favor of enacting the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA) and increasing resources to protect immigrant workers.