Construction Fatalities on the Rise in NYS

Construction work involves risk of injury to workers under even the best of circumstances. However, when subcontractors and job site managers fail to consider the safety implications to workers on the job site or ignore important regulations mandating safety protections for workers, those risks to workers can become even more substantial. A recent report has revealed that construction worker fatalities across the state of New York are growing, and that, unsurprisingly, more and more employers are violating important safety regulations and code requirements.

New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) explained that in the past two years, over 30 workers were killed on job sites in New York City, and 500+ workers have died in the past ten years within city limits. Those are staggering statistics for the construction industry.

NYCOSH has suggested several changes that could improve these statistics and reduce the chance of harm to New York construction workers. Some of these recommendations include more construction workers participate in OSHA 10 training, which instructs workers on how to avoid injury from ten of the most hazardous jobsite conditions. NYCOSH also recommends certain changes to New York legislation, such as a law that would require jobsite insurers to be transparent regarding their financial ability to pay claims, and a law that would provide a way to penalize contractors whose negligent conduct results in fatal injuries to a worker.

NYCOSH Executive Director Charlene Obernauer said in a Jan. 31 press release:

      “We need to take action now to end the crisis of rising construction fatalities in

      New York state. These deaths are almost always preventable and could be deterred by

      passing sensible legislation in New York state and by protecting existing legislation,

      such as the Scaffold Safety Law, that protects workers.”

She went on to discuss some of NYCOSH’s key recommendations which include:

  • Requiring construction training and certification for New York State’s construction workers. Municipalities and New York State need to create rigorous training requirements for construction workers.

  • Establishing funding streams for construction safety training programs in New York City. As the requirements for construction safety trainings increase, so too must the funding to provide such training, especially to ensure that low-wage immigrant workers have the opportunity to access them.

  • Preserving the Scaffold Safety Law. Given that fall-fatalities are the top cause of death on construction sites and the preventability of such deaths, this legislation must be defended.

  • Passing Carlos’ Law to ensure corporate responsibility for worker fatalities. For too long, workers’ deaths on the job have been quickly dismissed as “unfortunate accidents,” regardless of the role played by employers, contractors, and owners in contributing to their death.

  • Expand criminal prosecutions statewide. Across the state, DAs must exercise their power to hold criminal contractors accountable when the failure to protect workers rises to the level of a criminal offense.

  • Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors. New York City and other municipalities have broad power within their licensing and permitting processes to keep criminal contractors from operating unsafely and endangering workers and the public.