The construction industry continues to offer many workers opportunities to build robust, middle-class lives for themselves and their families but not without risks. While the industry has made strides to make the job safer, there’s always an ever-present degree of danger in this field. While New York State saw a record-breaking number of construction-related fatalities in 2016, NYC is leading the State regarding worker safety.
NYC vs. NYS
According to a recent study published by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH), there were a staggering 71 construction-related fatalities reported in 2016 in New York State. The study also noted that over the last five years, construction deaths rose 29.5% – a rate that far exceeds the number of construction projects in the State. By contrast, New York City saw a 19% decrease in fatalities, 25 total in 2016. Comparatively, the five-year trend saw an even more noticeable drop (21.3%) in the number of deaths on the job in New York City.
While the trend in the number of injuries heads in opposite directions, the types of fatal injuries remain the same across the State. The most common causes of construction fatalities fall under one of the “fatal four” categories: falls, electrocutions, struck by object, and caught in/between equipment or machinery. Over the last ten years, falls have consistently been the top cause of death – many times being entirely preventable.
Lack of Oversight and Enforcement
NYCOSH attributes the vast difference in fatality rates between NYC and NYS to three distinct causes: lack of enforcement, under-funding of enforcement agencies, and lack of adequate training. Their study points to a steady defunding of State inspections resulting in nearly 63% fewer site inspections in 2017. Further hamstringing the effectiveness of any enforcement effort, the NYCOSH study also found that the average fine levied against employers decreased by 7% – ultimately taking away the sting from any punitive measures.
Working to Keep Workers Safe
Despite the seemingly unbridgeable gap between Upstate and Downstate concerning construction-related fatalities, NYCOSH believes that taking a multi-pronged approach will save lives. The top recommendations by the Committee point to making construction safety training and certification a requirement for all construction workers in NYS. NYC already has a history of enacting legislation aimed at worker safety including the passage of Local Laws 41 of 2008 and 196 of 2017. Expanding on the need for training, NYCOSH also recommends the creation of a fund specifically to help pay for this new requirement.
Outside of training requirements, the Committee also pushed for more stringent laws, criminalizing worker deaths if employers are found criminally negligent and expanding monitoring and enforcement across the state.
Related Courses: 10-Hour OSHA Construction Safety and Health Training Program
While many might perceive expanded regulation as a negative for the industry, the data presents a solid argument for required training. A properly trained workforce ultimately prevents injuries, violations, fines, and keeps jobs on pace to meet stringent deadlines. While no one wants an additional regulation to worry about, everyone wants to make it home at the end of the day.