It should come as no surprise to anyone that the construction industry in New York City is not well-regulated. Recent news stories about accidents, injuries and deaths illustrate the danger inherent in working construction in the city. A recent report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) comes down hard on safety on construction sites in the city.
Hard Facts About NYC Construction Safety
The report, titled “Price of Life: 22015 Report on Construction Fatalities in NYC,” found that although the construction sector is a relatively small portion of the state’s economy in terms of employment – four percent – it accounts for 20 percent of workplace fatalities.
Here are some more sobering statistics from the report:
- Falls from heights account for 71 percent of all workplace injuries in New York City.
- Non-union workers and immigrant workers are the most vulnerable. In 2012, 79 percent of all construction deaths caused by falls happened at non-union sites. Immigrants and Latinos were the most frequent victims of falls from heights – 60 percent of workers who died in falls were immigrants or Latinos.
- OSHA violations are common, with almost 70 percent of inspections between 2010 and 2012 resulting in citations for serious safety violations. However, it appears that having a bad safety record does not prohibit contractors from working for the city, 89 percent of contractors constructing affordable housing projects have OSHA violations.
- OSHA fines are a slap on the wrist and do nothing to deter contractors from cutting corners on safety. The average fine for fatal fall construction accidents in 2012 was $7,620. It is less expensive for contractors to skimp on safety equipment and training and pay the fine if they get caught.
- OSHA has only 71 inspectors to oversee all worksites in every industry in the city. In practical terms, this means that most the construction sites are not inspected until after an accident occurs.
The executive director of NYCOSH, Charlene Obernauer, said, “The findings are clear – New York City has an epidemic of construction site deaths and it has to stop. There have been nine workers killed in the city this year, and it’s only May. We need to talk about how we can improve safety and crack down on criminal contractors and employers, instead of looking the other way or listening to lobbyists who’d prefer to cut corners on safety. Innocent workers should not have to die so that we can build our city’s infrastructure.”
A future blog post will discuss the construction boom in New York City that only strengthens the motivation of contractors and owners to skimp on safety.