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NEW YORK—Today, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released its annual construction fatality report, “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.” The report, which analyzes newly available data for the 2019 calendar year, found that construction fatalities in New York City increased for the third year in a row. Construction deaths in New York City account for a much higher percentage of overall worker deaths than the rest of the country. In 2019, construction deaths accounted for 26 percent of all worker deaths in New York City, compared to 19 percent nationwide. Construction fatalities in New York State decreased for the third year in a row in 2019. Despite this decrease, the percentage of construction fatalities among all worker deaths were still slightly higher for the entire state than the nationwide average.

In general, working conditions across industries are much more dangerous for Latinx workers. While an estimated 10% of New York State’s workers are Latinx, in 2019, 20.5% of workers who died on the job were Latinx.

“Construction workers put their lives on the line every day to build our homes, hospitals, schools and offices. Seeing a trend of rising fatalities in New York City is particularly alarming, and it’s time lawmakers commit to defending and expanding safety rules and regulations to ensure that bad actors are held accountable and workers can return home to their families at the end of the shift,” said Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH Executive Director.     

Other key findings include:

·       New York State’s construction industry remained highly dangerous for workers in 2019, but fatality numbers decreased slightly since 2016. The number of construction workers who died in New York State decreased 5% between 2018 and 2019, with 58 deaths in 2018 and 55 deaths in 2019.

·       In contrast, New York City’s construction fatality numbers increased in 2019, for the third year in a row. Twenty-four construction workers died in 2019, compared to 22 in 2018—a 10% increase.

·       Non-union job sites are especially dangerous for workers. NYCOSH analyzed OSHA’s 32 construction fatality investigations in 2019 and found that in New York State, 78% of workers who died on private worksites were non-union. In the 19 OSHA-investigated sites in New York City, 68% of the construction workers who died were non-union.

·       OSHA’s small budget resulted in low inspection numbers. An analysis of OSHA inspections in New York State shows a continued decrease over the past several years. OSHA also issued fewer press releases over the past few years, and studies have shown that publicity on OSHA enforcement can lead to fewer violations.

·       Contractors’ OSHA violations coincide with construction worker fatalities, but violations do not prevent contractors from receiving government subsidies. All OSHA-inspected sites that experienced construction fatality cases in New York State in 2019 were always found to have OSHA violations once an investigation occurred. Yet even in these instances, employers are not legally prevented from receiving subsidy dollars.

To address rising construction fatalities in New York City and to continue to work collaboratively to lower fatalities across New York State, NYCOSH recommends the following measures in the report:

·       Require construction training and certification for New York State’s construction workers

·       Preserve New York’s Scaffold Safety Law

·       Pass Carlos’ Law to increase penalties against criminal contractors

·       Expand criminal prosecutions of negligent contractors statewide

·       Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors

·       Double OSHA’s budget to allow for more proactive inspections before tragedies can occur

·       Continue to increase funding to the New York City Department of Buildings

·       Protect Latinx and immigrant workers who are disproportionally hurt on the job

·       Analyze and compile additional data on rising construction fatalities trends in New York City

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 in 1979 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. NYCOSH is a non-profit 501c3 organization.

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