FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 10, 2022
Contact: Julia Ofman, email@example.com
NYCOSH REPORT FINDS NEW YORK STATE CONSTRUCTION WORKER DEATHS REMAIN ALARMINGLY HIGH
New York’s Construction Industry Remains More Dangerous Than Rest of The Nation, Even After COVID-19 Shutdown
Latinx Workers Continue To Comprise Disproportionate Number of Fatalities
NEW YORK, NY – The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released its annual construction fatality report today, “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.” The report, which analyzed newly available data from 2020, found that the construction industry in both New York State and New York City remained far more dangerous than the rest of the country, despite widespread work stoppages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across New York State overall, the construction fatality rate increased from 10.2 per 100,000 workers to 11.1, or a 9% increase. In 2020, construction worker deaths accounted for 24% of all worker deaths in New York State, while nationally they comprised 21% of all worker deaths.
In New York City, the construction fatality rate decreased for the first time after three years of consistent increases, yet remains above the national average, accounting for 22% of worker fatalities. While more long-term data are needed to determine the causes behind this decrease, the construction slowdown caused by the pandemic likely played a role.
The report also found that, in 2020, OSHA conducted the lowest number of inspections in the agency’s history. This is also likely a result of the construction shutdown, but more analysis is needed to determine how this historic drop in oversight will set back efforts to safeguard worksites in subsequent years.
Latinx construction workers continue to be disproportionately likely to die on the job in New York State. In 2020, Latino workers made up 18% of worker fatalities while they comprised only 10% of the state population. The report also found that non-union job sites remain especially dangerous for workers, with 79% of worker deaths taking place on non-union worksites.
“New York should be a national leader in worker safety, but the data reveal that we continue to lead the nation in construction worker fatalities, despite COVID-19 shutdowns. Lawmakers must protect and expand safety regulations to hold negligent contractors and companies accountable when they endanger workers. While we are fortunate to have many strong protections on the books – such as the scaffold safety law – we still need stiffer consequences, and I urge lawmakers to act,” said Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH Executive Director.
“This report makes clear that much more must be done to ensure that the safety of workers remains the number one priority on all construction sites across New York,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “The rate of construction fatalities in New York is unacceptable, and it’s critical that decision makers continue to advance measures that bring the operation of all construction sites in line with the safety standards and protocols required at union construction sites. I urge lawmakers to continue to defend the state’s scaffold safety law, increase oversight and enact stiffer penalties against bad actors.”
“It is unconscionable that corrupt contractors and irresponsible companies profit at the expense of immigrant workers’ safety,” said Diana Moreno, Interim Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE). “Latinx and non-union workers must be able to make a living while staying alive. Community organizations like NICE train and educate workers to stay safe, but without stronger regulations, our efforts are not enough. We need the support and leadership of New York lawmakers to end this epidemic of fatalities in construction.”
Lawmakers must enshrine greater protections into law to ensure that every construction worker can trust that they will survive to go home to their families every day.”
Other key findings include:
- OSHA construction fines for fatality cases increased for the 5th year in a row.
- OSHA issued fewer press releases in 2021.
- Contractors’ OSHA violations coincide with construction worker fatalities, but violations do not prevent contractors from receiving government subsidies.
To address rising construction 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 contractors statewide
- Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors
- Double OSHA’s budget
- OSHA must issue a permanent infectious disease standard for all workers, including its own
- 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
The construction fatality data do not include the many construction workers that perished due to on-the-job exposure to COVID or other occupational illnesses.
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.