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New York Assemblyman Moya in Editorial on Worker Safety: How Much is a Life Worth?

Using the death of Latino construction worker Ricardo Gonzalez to illuminate his point, an elected official, Assemblyman Francisco Moya of Queens, forcefully demonstrated the importance of worker safety laws in New York. Moya pointed out that Mr. Gonzalez fell to his death at a construction site in Queens last year. He used statistics to illustrate the fact that fines provide little deterrence when it comes to safety decisions at a worksite. Gonzalez's employer paid a measly $10,440 for failing to provide a safe work site. That failure resulted in Mr. Gonzalez's death. Moya argues in the op-ed piece linked below that appeared in today's El Diario that fines like this provide little incentive for contractors, property owners and wealthy developers to place worker safety above profit.

Ideally, safety inspectors are supposed to keep construction companies from exposing employees to safety hazards. The reality, however, is that the penalties are a mere pittance and the inspections are far too infrequent. Partner Stephen Murphy, a trial attorney at Block O'Toole & Murphy, recently commented on PIX News that OSHA is ill-equipped as an agency to police construction sites and have a meaningful impact. "There are somewhere between 105 and 115 inspectors across New York State and if they were to inspect every jobsite in the State it would take them more than 100 years to accomplish that." Moya states that it is a fiction that OSHA is capable of enforcing workplace safety laws because of their resource problems. There just aren't enough capable bodies working for the agency.

Moya does point out that there is something working: New York's Scaffold Law. Frequently chronicled in this space, The Scaffold Safety Law requires that workers are provided proper safety equipment and training. The law holds those who are responsible for worksite safety accountable if someone is injured or killed because they were not given a safe place to work. The law is frequently under attack by insurance companies that generate massive profits and wealthy property owners who view the law as cutting into their profit margin. Moya intimates that any reduction in the effectiveness of the Scaffold Safety Law would lead to a widespread practice of cutting corners when it comes to safety. Moya rightfully points out that cutting corners can be deadly. He asks, "[S]o what is a human life worth? It is undoubtedly worth more than whatever money Ricardo's employer saved by cutting corners with safety."

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