The New York City Department of Buildings announced earlier this year that 12 people died in construction accidents in New York City in 2015 but the real number is 18. According to a recent article in Crain’s, the New York City Department of Buildings only counts deaths that are related to a violation of the city’s construction code.
Despite being featured by media and investigated by OSHA, all other deaths on NYC construction sites are not counted as construction accident deaths in the DOB statistics. This obviously doesn’t make much sense. The DOB numbers are a distorted indication of the level of safety on New York construction sites.
Among the deaths that the city didn’t count were a hard hat who fell to his death in an elevator shaft, a safety coordinator crushed by a crane, a worker who fell from a ladder and a truck driver who was sucked into a concrete truck shaft. Following these deaths, OSHA issued safety violations for each case. However the DOB didn’t and also didn’t add them to the total number of New York City construction accident deaths in 2015.
A few days ago, when asked about it, Mayor de Blasio just brushed off the issue and said “I think the issue at hand has to do with some jurisdictional differences, DOB versus OSHA and differences of reporting”. This indeed means that on average for 1 death of a construction worker out of 3, the Department of Buildings considers that the cause of the death is not an issue related to workplace safety. Therefore not only is a man dead but nothing is being done by the city to prevent it from happening again.
The nonchalance of the Mayor of New York toward the 6 uncounted construction worker deaths raised the ire of the construction union leaders. They blasted de Blasio for his comments and accused the DOB of picking numbers that fit their narratives. The union leaders want de Blasio to apologize for his comments. Joseph Geiger, the executive secretary-treasurer of the local District Council of Carpenters said de Blasio was insulting “every employee who sets foot on a construction project in this city”.
Despite showing an image of a progressive politician who is protecting the interests of the working class, de Blasio picked mostly non unionized companies for the development of his affordable housing plan despite being aware that non unionized construction workers are usually lower paid and have a much higher risk of dying in a construction accident. A report published in the spring by The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) has shown that non unionized construction sites in New York City have a much higher rate of construction deaths than unionized sites. While the majority of deaths on construction sites are fall related the NYCOSH report found that in New York City 80% of the fatal deaths in 2015 occurred on non unionized construction sites.