A recent study shows that an alarming number of construction sites in Western New York are woefully failing to provide their employees with a safe place to work. Not by coincidence, this study was released as New York State continues to experience a spike in serious construction accidents and fatalities. Worker safety needs to become a greater focus with politicians, the media and New Yorkers. The problem isn’t going away.
The study was conducted by the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health. Their conclusions were reached after data was released from inspections of construction sites by OSHA in Western New York over the period of a calendar year. In turn, the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health studied the OSHA findings from the agency’s inspections in a 10 county area in upstate New York. The OSHA inspection data included heavy construction zones like Buffalo and Rochester. The results are, to say the least, very troubling.
The report concludes that, in 2014, OSHA investigators found violations in 83% of their inspections. Significantly, the violations were classified as “serious” on 82% of those occasions. These statistics help explain why the number of construction accidents statewide remains so very high.
Ideally, those who are responsible for safety at a construction site should endeavor to make sure all workers are properly trained and are given appropriate equipment to perform their job responsibilities in a safe way. This is obviously not an ideal that we are realizing as a society. So what can be done to help make worksites safer for all construction workers? The study makes a few smart suggestions.
- Increasing the amount of money for fines issued to offenders. Slaps on the wrist accomplish little, they argue.
- Maintain and strengthen existing worker safety laws, like New York’s Scaffold Safety Law.
- Expand the number of OSHA Investigators and inspections.
The study illustrates what little OSHA can accomplish because of a lack of manpower. In Buffalo alone, the safety agency conducted approximately 300 construction inspections in 2014. That is a paltry sum when it is compared with the nearly 2,000 home construction permits that were issued in that same region. The permits discussed in the study for home construction don’t even contemplate the thousands of other permits that were issued for other types of construction related work. Obviously OSHA can only accomplish so much. Enforcing worker safety laws and preventing serious construction accidents is not very realistic for an agency that is inspecting such a small percentage of construction sites. We need change.
With greater focus and vigor, we hope hard-hitting studies like this will galvanize the general public and politicians to place a stronger emphasis on worker safety. We, at Block O’Toole & Murphy, have been discussing this all – important issue for years. Indeed, the law firm of Block O’Toole & Murphy prides itself on fighting for the rights of construction workers throughout New York State. You can learn more about the firm and our nearly $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients by delving further into our website at www.BlockOToole.com.