Construction Deaths Climb in NY State

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The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) has released its annual report (“Deadly Skyline”) on construction fatalities in the state, showing 69 construction workers died statewide in 2017, including 20 in New York City.

Although the statewide total is fewer than the 71 fatalities reported in 2016, the construction fatality rate in the state has increased 39 percent in the past five years, to 12.2 fatal workplace injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.

Falls are the leading cause of construction worker deaths, accounting for 49 percent of fatal injuries statewide and 46 percent in the city over the past 10 years. The report also notes that 86.7 percent of fatalities statewide in 2017 involved nonunion workers, while that percentage was 92.9 in the city.

The average fine amount by OSHA in 2017 cases involving the death of a construction worker was just $21,644. Maximum allowable OSHA fine amounts increased by 78 percent on August 1, 2016, the first increase in 26 years; but this increased allowable fine amount has not led to increases in actual fines against employers.

NYCOSH’s recommendations include, among others:

  • Preserve New York’s Scaffold Safety Law;
  • Pass Carlos’ Law to increase penalties against criminal contractors;
  • Expand criminal prosecutions of contractors statewide; and
  • Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors.