New York has the sixth lowest construction worker injury rate in the U.S. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite being among the safest cities for hard hats, working on a New York City construction site remains one of the riskiest occupations in the City.
According to “The price of Life, 2015 report on construction fatalities in NYC” released by The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), construction work accounts only for 4% of employment but for 20% of occupational fatalities in New York State. As in the rest of the nation, falls to a lower level are the number one cause of death on New York construction sites. Almost half of the fatalities on NYC construction sites are related to falls from Heights.
Roofing and siding workers doing construction work at an elevation are the most at risk of a fatal fall. These workers are often working in an unsafe environment. 80% of New York roofing and siding contractors who received a visit from an OSHA inspector between 2010 and 2012 received violations.
The NYCOSH report also found that non union workers are usually working in less safe environments than unionized workers. In average 80% of the fatal falls occurred on non union construction sites.
OSHA safety standards are routinely violated by New York contractors who put profits ahead of workers safety. Most OSHA violations recorded in New York are related to unsafe scaffolding, ladders and fall protection equipment. Most of the fatalities occur on construction sites that do not respect safety standards.
Latinos and immigrant workers are the most at risk of dying on NY construction sites. Latinos represent 25% of the workforce in the New York construction industry but account for 38% of the fatalities. 60% of the workers who fatally fell from heights on New York sites are Latino or immigrant.
Because OSHA inspections are not conducted often enough and because penalties are too low, there are no real incentives for greedy construction contractors to improve safety on their sites. The average penalty for the death of a construction worker who fell from a height is $7,620.