New York State Construction Fatalities Are on the Rise

According to NYCOSH’s 2019 “Deadly Skyline” Report, Construction fatalities in New York State are on the rise.  This is due to the fact that construction worksites have dangerous working conditions and worker safety is not a priority.  Employers regularly violate safety regulations and rarely suffer any consequences.  NYCOSH’s “Deadly Skyline” Report also discovered that Construction fatalities have decreased in New York City despite the industry’s fatality increase throughout New York State.   

NYCOSH’s 2019 report unveiled a number of findings and recommendations to improve worker safety in New York:

  • New York’s construction industry continues to be highly dangerous for workers, with high fatality numbers and high rates of fatalities in New York State. In 2017, the most recent data year available, 69 construction workers died in New York State, exemplifying a five-year trend of increasing fatalities in the State. New York State’s construction fatality rate has increased by 39% in the past five years.
  • New York City construction fatalities continued to drop in 2017, with the rate trending downwards. In New York City, 20 workers died in 2017, and over the past five years, the New York City fatal occupational injury rate in construction decreased by 23%. Therefore, this indicates that fluctuations in the number of construction projects in New York City does not correlate to the decreasing number of fatalities, as construction is booming yet fatalities are falling.
  • In 2017, New York State had a 52% higher construction fatality rate than New York City. Over the past five years, the New York City fatal occupational injury rate in construction decreased by 23%, while the New York State rate increased by 39% over the same period of time.
  • Fatal falls continue to be the top cause of construction fatalities in both New York State and New York City. In all of New York State in the past ten years, 187 workers died in falls, which account for 49% of all construction fatalities. In New York City alone, over the past ten years, 78 workers died due to falls, which on average accounted for 46% of all construction deaths and 55% of construction deaths in 2017.
  • OSHA construction fines for fatality cases remain low. 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.
  • Non-union job sites are especially dangerous for workers. NYCOSH analyzed OSHA’s 30 investigated construction fatality citations in calendar year 2017 and found that in New York State, 86.7 of workers who died on private worksites were non-union. In New York City, 92.9% of the 2017 construction workers who died on private worksites were non-union. In New York State, federal OSHA only inspects worker fatalities on private worksites.

In order to maximize worker safety on construction sites in New York State, NYCOSH recommends the following:

  • Preserve New York’s Scaffold Safety Law.
  • Pass Carlos’ Law to increase penalties against criminal contractors.
  • Expand criminal prosecutions of contractors statewide.
  • Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors.
  • Increase the role of New York State in protecting construction worker safety given OSHA’s inadequacies.
  • Increase funding to the New York City Department of Buildings.
  • Mandate subsidy procurement reform and responsible contracting in New York State and New York City.
  • Protect Latino and immigrant workers proactively.

NYCOSH’s “Deadly Skyline” Report sheds light on the fact that the Construction Industry  needs to continue to  abide by safety regulations and protocol for the safety of their workers.


Sources:  NYCOSH 2019 “Deadly Skyline” Report

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