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Construction Deaths in New York City Fall

While deaths fell in NYC, New York State continued to see an upward trend of construction fatalities

Brian Young's picture
Feb 06, 2019

Construction remains as one of the deadliest professions in New York, especially if you work on a non-union job site. That is the findings of a new report that was released by New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).

The report found that in 2017 (the last year data is available for) 69 construction workers died due to job-related accidents. This is part of an upward trend over the last 5 years which has seen fatalities increase by an astonishing 39%. The top cause of death was fatal falls, which represented 49% of all workplace fatalities.

One piece of good news from the report came from New York City. Even with the construction boom that has put tens of thousands of tradesmen to work, fatalities in the city have decreased by 23%.

Much of this decrease can be attributed to the strong safety rules in the city and the better training, thanks to the prevalence of unions. In New York City, 92.9% of the construction deaths occurred on non-union job sites. Statewide, 86.7% of the deaths were on non-union worksites.

What is causing the increase in deaths? NYCOSH points out that the penalties for failing to meet OSHA safety standards are still quite low. The average fine amount by OSHA in 2017 cases involving the death of a construction worker was just $21,644. That price is often lower than the cost would be to ensure that all sites meet the OSHA safety requirements. New York City also saw a decrease thanks in no small part to the work of Building and Construction trades unions. Not only do these unions provide more safety training than their non-union counterparts, but these unions also have worked with the City Council to strengthen safety laws. For example, the New York City Council now requires every construction worker, both union and non, to complete an OSHA 30 class. This 30-hour course goes over important safety rules to ensure that workers and the bosses are taking the proper safety precautions.

“For years in New York City we chanted ‘How many more must die?’ to shine a light on the alarming increase in construction fatalities in New York City,” said Patrick Purcell, Executive Director of the New York State & Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust. “It is shameful that now as we see improvements in the City, construction workers throughout the rest of the state find themselves increasingly at risk on the job. No one should go to work questioning whether or not they’ll return home safely and NYCOSH’s “Deadly Skyline” report illustrates why many construction workers go to work each day with that exact fear. It is imperative that New York State institute stringent safety training requirements for all construction workers in the state and enforce the laws we already have that can hold employers who knowingly put workers in harm’s way accountable.”

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