236 workers, many of them construction workers died on the job in New York in 2015, according to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As recent Congressional actions have been pushing for the deregulation of workers safety rules, these disturbing statistics may even get worse.
In an effort to fight back, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) recently announced that it has joined a national campaign for workplace safety. Entitled “Protecting Workers’Lives & Limbs” the campaign launched by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has already rallied 92 groups across the country.
The goals of the campaign are to make sure that workers health and safety stay a priority and to insure that all workers are protected including illegal immigrant workers. The campaign will work on eliminating disparities, reduce the use of toxic chemicals at work, make sure workers have access to quality medical treatments and fair wage replacement benefits. It will also focus on getting a better count of injuries and illnesses on the workplace as many workers still fear retaliation from employers if they report their injuries. The complete campaign agenda can be downloaded here.
NYCOSH believe that stronger worker safety protections, not only protect workers from injuries and fatalities but also save money to employers. The local NYCOSH delegation is also planning to meet with New York elected officials. “Communicating now to elected officials is urgent, given already-implemented federal cuts to workplace health and safety,” said NYCOSH Executive Director Charlene Obernauer. “Recent Congressional actions have put workers at risk by taking steps to eliminate sanctions against federal contractors who violate safety laws and reverse longstanding record keeping rules.”
In New York State, there are only 66 OSHA inspectors to investigate workplace safety. Hiring at federal level has been frozen by Trump except for immigration enforcement.
NYCOSH is also concerned by the possibility of workplace immigration raids. NYCOSH believes that all workers should be able to work in safe conditions independently of their immigration status. Unfortunately workers the most at risk of getting injured or killed are often immigrants who often work at very low wages in hazardous and exploitative conditions. These workers are often pressured by their employers not to report unsafe conditions or injuries.
As part of the “Protecting Workers’Lives & Limbs”, NYCOSH will also hold an event on Memorial Day. The event will focus on construction workers who died in New York over the past 5 years.