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Victims of Fatal Construction Accidents Honored

A trade magazine, Real Estate Weekly, recently reported on Workers' Memorial Day, which occurred on April 28. An event sponsored by the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) and the New York Central Labor Council, the day honored the memory of workers who died in the past twelve months.

A report on workplace deaths in New York was released during the event showing that the construction industry accounted for the largest single proportion of worker fatalities in 2012. During the ceremony, construction workers spoke about being injured on the job and bricklayers talked about recent construction fatalities in New York City.

In addition to worker testimony and readings in honor of some who died, the names of all workers who were killed in 2013 were read. Flowers were placed at a nearby work site.

One union official said, "Workers' Memorial Day is a time for us to mourn those who have died, but it's also a time for us to fight for our brothers and sisters who are facing unsafe working conditions every day on the job."

The report highlighted during the ceremony made several recommendations to improve construction worker safety, including:

  • Hire more OSHA inspectors. At current staffing levels, OSHA would need 103 years to inspect all New York workplaces. The agency in New York is at very low staffing levels at present, the lowest in five years.
  • Increase OSHA fines. The average fine is $12,767, not enough to encourage owners and managers of construction companies to invest in safety for workers.
  • Preserve New York's scaffold law. This provision of the labor law has been under attack by construction industry trade groups and others.
  • Develop projects to test ways to improve safety in industries that employ large numbers of immigrants. The recommendation also included a request to add to the number of OSHA interpreters and speakers of foreign languages spoken by immigrant construction workers.

The Worker's Memorial Day event took place at 435 West 50th Street, which is the subject of a serious OSHA violation arising from scaffolding deficiencies at the site.