31 people died in construction accidents in New York over the last 2 years. Injuries from construction accidents recorded by the New York City Department of Buildings increased by 250% from 2011 to 2015. The recent construction boom in the city has contributed to this increase in hard hats deaths and injuries.
In a recent opinion in the New York Times, Dominique Bravo, director of Pathways 2 Apprenticeships, expressed his outrage at the laissez-faire attitude in regards to safety regulations in the New York construction industry. Bravo notes that while the number of construction permits issued by the DOB increased by 18% between 2100 and 2014 the number of OSHA inspectors in New York State decreased by 13% during the same period of time. They are only 71 OSHA inspectors for the entire State of New York.
INADEQUATE FALL PROTECTION IS THE MOST COMMON VIOLATION
Contractors and developers are aware that there are not enough inspectors to visit all NY construction sites and that there is a good chance their site will never be visited by an inspector. Additionally the fines imposed by OSHA in case of safety violations are too low to prevent negligence. Therefore many developers and contractors don’t bother to proprely train their workers or install safety measures that are required by law such as fall protection systems including nets and railings. Statistics show that 73% of the contractors inspected between 2009 and 2014 had at least one serious violation, predominantly for failing to install adequate fall protection. Falls are the number one cause of deaths in the construction industry, in New York and in the US.
Bravo also emphasis that construction workers who are the most at risk of dying are undocumented immigrants hired by non unionized contractors. A recent study by The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) indicate that 80% of the fatal falls in New York occur on non unionized construction sites (see previous blog).
New Yorkers can do better than this writes Bravo. Contractors should be submitted to tougher licensing requirements. Safety inspections should be more frequent and developers hiring unionized workers should be supported.