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Construction worker deaths on the rise throughout New York: report

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Photo: JANIFEST/iStockphoto

New York – Construction worker fatalities have been rising in New York City and throughout the state – and Latino workers are particularly at risk due to falls and willful violations – according to an annual report released Jan. 18 by the advocacy group New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Between 2011 and 2015, fatal occupational injuries in construction increased to 55 from 33 statewide, and to 25 from 17 in the city. Falls were the leading cause of construction worker deaths, with 49.1 percent occurring statewide and 59.4 percent in the city. The national rate over that five-year span was 36.3 percent.

The report notes that the New York City Department of Buildings “does not investigate and officially record construction deaths that do not threaten public safety, meaning that many construction fatalities go uncounted.”

The report also notes that safety violations occurred at 87 percent of the fatality sites inspected by OSHA in 2014, and at more than 90 percent of the sites the following year.

Latinos encountered a “disproportionate danger of death” from falls and willful violations, the report states. Although they made up 30 percent of the workforce, 57 percent of construction workers who died from falls were Latino, according to OSHA. Willful violations occurred at 33 percent of the construction sites where Latinos died, compared with 5 percent where non-Latinos died.

The report offers several recommendations, including:

  • Require OSHA 10-hour or similar training for all city construction workers.
  • Mandate training and apprenticeship programs for large construction projects.
  • Support and maintain laws that protect workers.
  • Increase supervision and enforcement.

“We need to take action now to end the crisis of rising construction fatalities in New York State,” NYCOSH Executive Director Charlene Obernauer said in a press release. “These deaths are almost always preventable and occur on non-union job sites 80 percent of the time. Latino workers compose the majority of fall fatalities … and there is a strong correlation between employers who steal workers’ wages and who force workers to work under unsafe conditions.”

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