The New York construction industry is facing questions about safety after a spike in work-related deaths. In 2016, construction accidents accounted for the highest number of industry fatalities in 14 years, according to a report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).
New Report Shows Uptick in Construction Worker Deaths
Construction accidents have resulted in the deaths of more than 500 workers in New York during the last decade. In their report, NYCOSH called this trend a “health and safety crisis facing New York’s construction workers.”
- There were 71 construction deaths in New York State in 2016, 16 more than the previous year.
- Falls are the top cause of construction deaths in New York.
- The construction fatal injury rate in New York State rose almost 40 percent between 2011 and 2015.
- The most common causes of construction deaths are still the “fatal four”: falls, electrocutions, struck by object and caught in/between equipment or machinery.
3 Ways to Decrease Fatal Construction Accidents
In response to this growing problem, the advocacy group issued a series of recommendations.
1) Require Adequate Education and Training
NYCOSH recommends that New York City extend the requirement of OSHA’s 10-hour construction safety training program to all construction workers. Currently, this training is only required for those who work on builders larger than 10 stories or greater than 100,000 square feet.
They also suggested requiring apprentice programs and training for large construction projects as a way to reduce fatal construction accidents.
2) Expand Monitoring and Enforcement
NYCOSH called on the New York City Department of Buildings to comprehensively analyze all construction fatalities, including:
- Gathering details on cause of death
- Recording safety issues at the fatality site
In addition, the advocacy group recommended the expansion of criminal prosecutions statewide to hold contractors accountable.
“New York City should use its broad power over licensing and permitting to keep criminal contractors who were convicted of felonies that cause a worker death from operating unsafely and endangering workers and the public,” the report stated.
3) Extend and Defend Protective Legislation
NYCOSH recommends preserving the current New York Scaffold Safety Law to protect construction workers. If passed, the legislation would hold building site owners and employers fully liable for worker injuries and deaths that result from unsafe conditions.
The advocacy group also urges the passage of the Construction Insurance Transparency Act. It would require insurers who provide coverage for liability under the Scaffold Safety Law to publicly disclose information about premium determinations and financial solvency.
Another component of the NYCOSH’s plan is to urge New York State lawmakers to pass Carlos’ Law, which would establish penalties against contractors whose willful negligence contributed to a construction worker’s death.
As construction fatalities receive more and more public attention, support is slowly growing for greater worker protections that could ultimately save lives.