September 9, 2015

Why Construction Fatalities in New York City Are On The Rise

By Jonathan Damashek

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Construction SiteNew York City is always changing. There are always new buildings going up, old ones to repair and new projects in the pipelines. Unfortunately, the construction workers who make the city what it is and will be, often work in unsafe and risky conditions.

A report by the New York Committee on Occupational Safety & Health states that while construction jobs account for less than four percent of employment, the sector represents nearly 20 percent of occupational fatalities in the state. Immigrant and non union workers are most at risk. As a result, construction fatalities in New York City are one the rise.

Seven NYC construction workers have already perished on the job in 2015, according to the Daily News.  According to the NYCOSH report, there were nine in 2014, and seven in 2013.

Work at high elevations is particularly hazardous — for obvious reasons — and because employers often violate health and safety standards in this conditions. The report states, that 65 percent of construction workers work on scaffolding and that falls, including those down open stairwells or elevator shafts account for more than half of all construction fatalities.

A “serious” violation is defined as one which could “cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm,” and two-thirds of site inspections result in serious violations, often involving scaffolds, ladders and fall protection equipment. Serious violations are nearly always present when there is a fatality.

Contractors who are caught violating health and safety standards are held responsible for injuries and fatalities, but the city often continues to do business with these contractors anyway. The report notes that 89 percent of contractors currently working on affordable housing projects are flagged for “enhanced review” by the NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development. The penalties for severe violations — even when fatalities occur — are extremely low. In 2012, the average penalty in fatal height-related construction accidents in New York was $7,620.

Nonunion employers are the least safe. 79 percent of fatal falls occurred at nonunion sites and 90 percent of the construction companies in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program are nonunion. Moreover, Latino workers are disproportionately harmed by the lax safety enforcement. They account for about 60 percent of fall deaths and 38 percent of all construction deaths, despite only representing 25 percent of construction workers. The language barrier and inadequate training often contribute to this disparity.

As previously stated, construction fatalities in New York City are on the rise. If you feel unsafe or have been injured on a job site, don’t hesitate to contact our legal team. OSHA only has 71 inspectors to cover all of New York state and lacks proper enforcement capabilities. Your life is not worth the cost of doing business.