A 34-year-old construction worker from the Bronx was killed on a construction site in Queens last month after hitting his head on a low beam. The incident was not only tragic but began raising questions about the safety of the high-rise worksite and the company the worker was employed for. Unfortunately, construction fatalities such as this one are not uncommon, especially in the state of New York.
New York Construction Fatalities Are On The Rise
In a report released by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) a record-breaking 71 construction workers died on the job in New York State in 2016, 21 in New York City alone. As more and more families continue to be hit by tragedy, safety advocates around the state are examining what is causing these fatalities and where change is needed most to reduce them.
What’s Causing NY Construction Fatalities?
Over the past five years, New York State has seen a 29.5% increase in construction fatalities according to the NYCOSH. When examining the data, the following variables considerably impacted the number of deaths reported each year:
- Falling hazards: Construction sites with high rates of falling hazards continue to cause unnecessary deaths throughout the state. Falls have contributed to the death of 218 workers in the last ten years, remaining the number one cause of death in the construction industry.
- Non-union worksites: Private worksites have higher rates of death and injury than union controlled sites, resulting in 94.7% of construction fatalities in 2016.
- Underfunded enforcement agencies: Over the past 20 years, OSHA inspections of construction sites have drastically decreased due to underfunding, causing fewer safety inspections and corrections of unsafe construction practices.
- Low fines for construction companies: OSHA fines for construction companies have actually decreased by 7%, providing less incentive for construction sites to spend money on safety equipment and injury prevention methods.
- Fraudulent safety training: Some contractors pressure employees to obtain fraudulent safety training cards to avoid paying for safety courses and getting fined by OSHA for not having the certifications on site.
Preventing Construction Fatalities
With such an alarming spike in construction fatalities, doing nothing to change these statistics is not an option New York can afford. A serious overhaul of construction safety practices is needed to ensure employers are held responsible for protecting their employees on the job site at all times. In NYCOSH’s January report, the committee provides several recommendations for how New York State can decrease its high rate of construction deaths and prevent fatal injuries on the job going forward:
- Requiring adequate safety training for workers: By upping the requirements on safety training and certifications, workers will be more adequately trained in how to prevent construction injuries and deaths. In 2017, New York City enacted rigorous construction safety laws such as requiring 40 hours minimum of safety training, establishing funding streams to ensure employers had access to credible training courses, and increasing the licensing and certifications needed in highly dangerous fields of construction.
- Extending current safety legislation: Safety legislation such as New York’s Scaffold Safety Law and Carlos’ Law focus on holding building/property owners and employers responsible for worker injuries. Keeping and defending this legislation is extremely important in reducing construction deaths.
- Crackdown on enforcement and monitoring: Making sure criminal contractors and construction companies are prosecuted and held responsible for unsafe behaviors is essential to protecting workers. The state cannot be lax on revoking licenses and permits for safety violations. NYCOSH also believes directing funding towards more OSHA inspections would be extremely helpful in monitoring issues before deaths occur.
- Protecting Latino and immigrant workers: Employers must be held accountable for protecting all employees equally. Latino and immigrant workers are less likely to report safety violations in fear of exploitation by employers. Recent spikes in immigration raids have given even more power to crooked employers who willfully violate the health and safety of their Latino and immigrant employees.
New York State Is Behind
New York City has already taken extreme initiatives to fight back against construction fatalities and New York State needs to follow suit. Without revised safety legislation, proper allegations of funding, and stricter regulations on employers, construction deaths will continue to rise across the state causing more families pain and suffering when their loved ones don’t come home from work.
If you’ve been injured in a construction accident due to the negligence of an employer or building owner, call the personal injury experts at Siler & Ingber. Our winning attorneys strongly believe in protecting the rights of workers and will help you seek justice for your injuries. Contact us to schedule a free consultation 1-877-529-4343 or click on the form below.