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New Report Shows Construction In New York State Remains ‘Highly Dangerous’ Despite Attempts At Improving Safety


Construction Fatalities In New York City Decreasing Despite Overall Statewide Increase In Construction-Related Fatalities

New York, New York – Today, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released its latest construction fatality report, “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State,” outlining just how dangerous construction remains in New York State. Deemed “highly dangerous,” researchers found increasing trends in New York State construction fatalities and that employers routinely violate legal regulations with impunity. The report also found that while New York State is seeing an increase in construction-related fatalities, New York City construction fatality rates continue to decrease.

NYCOSH’s report unveiled a number of findings and recommendations to improve worker safety in New York.

Key Findings:

  • New York’s construction industry continues to be highly dangerous for workers, with high fatality numbers and high rates of fatalities in New York State. In 2017, the most recent data year available, 69 construction workers died in New York State, exemplifying a five-year trend of increasing fatalities in the State. New York State’s construction fatality rate has increased by 39% in the past five years.
  • New York City construction fatalities continued to drop in 2017, with the rate trending downwards. In New York City, 20 workers died in 2017, and over the past five years, the New York City fatal occupational injury rate in construction decreased by 23%. Therefore, this indicates that fluctuations in the number of construction projects in New York City does not correlate to the decreasing number of fatalities, as construction is booming yet fatalities are falling.
  • In 2017, New York State had a 52% higher construction fatality rate than New York City. Over the past five years, the New York City fatal occupational injury rate in construction decreased by 23%, while the New York State rate increased by 39% over the same period of time.
  • Fatal falls continue to be the top cause of construction fatalities in both New York State and New York City. In all of New York State in the past ten years, 187 workers died in falls, which account for 49% of all construction fatalities. In New York City alone, over the past ten years, 78 workers died due to falls, which on average accounted for 46% of all construction deaths and 55% of construction deaths in 2017.
  • OSHA construction fines for fatality cases remain low. The average fine amount by OSHA in 2017 cases involving the death of a construction worker was just $21,644. Maximum allowable OSHA fine amounts increased by 78 percent on August 1, 2016, the first increase in 26 years; but this increased allowable fine amount has not led to increases in actual fines against employers.
  • Non-union job sites are especially dangerous for workers. NYCOSH analyzed OSHA’s 30 investigated construction fatality citations in calendar year 2017 and found that in New York State, 86.7 of workers who died on private worksites were non-union. In New York City, 92.9% of the 2017 construction workers who died on private worksites were non-union. In New York State, federal OSHA only inspects worker fatalities on private worksites.

NYCOSH’s Recommendations Include:

  • Preserve New York’s Scaffold Safety Law.
  • Pass Carlos’ Law to increase penalties against criminal contractors.
  • Expand criminal prosecutions of contractors statewide.
  • Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors.
  • Increase the role of New York State in protecting construction worker safety given OSHA’s inadequacies.
  • Increase funding to the New York City Department of Buildings.
  • Mandate subsidy procurement reform and responsible contracting in New York State and New York City.
  • Protect Latino and immigrant workers proactively.

“In our new ’Deadly Skyline’ report on construction fatalities in New York, we found that over the past five years, as construction deaths on the job have been mostly decreasing in New York City, they have been mostly increasing in New York State.  ‘Deadly Skyline’ points to the need for New York State to proactively protect construction workers—particularly Latino and immigrant workers—with protective policies,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH.

“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.”

“Statistical data and reports such as those made today by NYCOSH are an important step, showing a decrease in the rate of accidents and deaths in construction in the city. The connection between the theft of wages and health and safety violations is also important to note. Wage theft has become a common practice for most companies and contractors – overloading unpaid work hours, abusing their status, abusing our fears. That is why I ask the competent authorities to draw up laws that criminalize this type of abuse, hold these companies and contractors responsible, who exempt their obligations and treat us workers as disposable beings,” said Fabian Rojas, a worker-leader with the Manhattan Justice for Workers Collaborative.


ABOUT NYCOSH: The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) is a membership organization of workers, unions, community-based organizations, workers’ rights activists, and health and safety professionals. NYCOSH uses training, education, and advocacy to improve health and safety conditions in our workplaces, our communities, and our environment. Founded 40 years ago on the principle that workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths are preventable, NYCOSH works to extend and defend every person’s right to a safe and healthy workplace.

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