Construction worker deaths in New York City and New York State represented respectively 22% and 24% of all worker deaths in the city and in the State in 2020 according to the annual report “Deadly Skyline” recently published by NYCOSH. The percentage is higher than the 21% rate recorded at the national level.
While less workers died in 2020 in NY and and NYC, data are difficult to compare as many construction sites shut down during the lock down. 41 construction workers died in accidents in New York State in 2020 compared to 55 in 2019. Among them, 13 died on New York City construction sites in 2020 compared to 24 in 2019.
Fatality rate is a better measure of how dangerous the work places are: In New York State, the construction workers fatality rate was 11.1 per 100,000 workers in 2020 compared to 10.2 in 2019. This indicates that work conditions were more dangerous for workers in 2020 than in 2019 in New York State. In New York City, the fatality rate declined from 11.6 to 7 per 100.000 which is quite an improvement and an indication that the recent measures taken by the city to make construction sites safer may work. Over the last few years, the budget for the New York City Department of Building has been increasing and so did the number of employees working on safety legislation and inspections.
The report also confirms that non-union construction sites remain much more dangerous than union ones. OSHA investigated 29 construction fatalities in New York State including 9 in New York City and found that 79% of the deaths occurred on non union sites. Among the 9 deaths investigated in NYC, all occurred on non union sites.
Latino workers continue to remain the most at risk of dying in a construction accident in NY. While they only represent 10% of all construction workers in the state, they account for 18% of the fatalities. Immigrant workers have a higher risk of being exploited by negligent employers who have little respect for safety on job sites. Latino workers are also less likely to report violations because they fear retaliation.
While OSHA increased its fines in 2020, it conducted the lowest number of inspections in agency history. This might again be related to the ongoing covid19 crisis.
Read the entire NYCOSH report here