Construction accident fatalities on the rise in NY State and New York City
After a dip in 2020, construction accident deaths in New York State and New York City were on the rise again in 2021 according to the recently released “Deadly Skyline” report. “Deadly Skyline” is an annual report released by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). NYCOSH uses the most recent available data from the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (DOL BLS) to compile an annual report on construction accident deaths in New York City and New York State.
A total of 61 hard hats died in NY State in 2021 compared to respectively 71, 69, 58, 55 and 41 in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Since 2016, during which a record number of construction workers died in NYS, the number of fatalities gradually declined to reach its lowest since 2013. While the slowdown in construction activity due to the Covid19 lockdown was a factor in the 2020 dip, the number of fatalities reported in 2021 jumped above the number of fatalities reported in 2019 and 2018.
Among the 61 construction workers who died in NY State, 20 of them died while working on a construction site in NYC. Construction workers fatalities also increased in 2021 in NYC compared to 2020 but remain lower or equal to the number of fatalities reported annually between 2013 and 2019 in the city. With the exception of 2020, construction fatalities in NYC never went below 20 since 2012 ands the only time they went down to 20 was in 2017.
While looking at the fatality rates, New York State had a higher fatality rate than New York City in 2021 with 12.1 worker deaths per 100,000 NYS workers compared to 11.2 per 100,000 NYC workers in 2021. The 2021 fatality rate in NYS was at its highest since 2017 while in New York City the 2021 fatality rate was slightly below its highest in 2019.
NICOSH also analyzed all OSHA fatalities investigations for NY State and New York City in 2021 and found that in NY State 82% of the workers who died were non-union and in NYC 80% of them were non-union. Many of these workers are Latinx who are often exploited by negligent contractors who violate construction safety rules.
The report also indicates that OSHA increased its fine per violations however the number of OSHA inspections in NY State remained lower than usual in 2021. NICOSH believe that OSHA should be doing more inspections and also increase the number of press releases on egregious violators. Last year, OSHA issued the lowest ever number of press releases since 2018.
Finally, NICOSH also points out in its report that contractors subjected to OSHA fines for the most egregious violations are still eligible to receive subsidies from New York State and New York City.