Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

“Price of Life” Report Reveals Uptick in 2015 NYC Fatalities, Heightened Danger on Non-Union Sites

Price of Life report

submit to reddit  

Construction workers, labor advocates, politicians, and the families of those killed on the job held a rally at New York City Hall this week, calling for safer worksites in the face of what they view as a workplace fatality outbreak.  The rally coincided with the release of a new report, The Price of Life: 2015 Report on Construction Fatalities in NYC, from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). The report details the various ways that workers are left unprotected, namely the paltry penalties for violations and the hurdles to pursuing justice for victims’ families.

Speaking at the event was Monica Velazquez, whose father Delfino died in a construction accident the day after Thanksgiving.  A roof collapsed on Delfino as he demolished a car dealership in Staten Island.  Monica told the crowd:

“I miss my father every single day and my heart aches because I know his death was entirely avoidable.  Construction workers have rights, like everyone, to expect to come home safe when they go to work in the morning.”

The Price of Life report reveals that 15 construction workers were killed on the job in 2014.  Since January of 2015, however, another nine workers have lost their lives on unsafe sites.  The report found that while the construction sector makes up less than 4 percent of statewide employment, it accounts for nearly 20 percent of workplace fatalities.  

Most of the fatalities happen at non-union worksites and most of the victims are immigrants and Latinos. The report concludes that non-union employers are the least safe:

In 2012, 79 percent of fatal fall construction accidents investigated by OSHA in New York occurred at nonunion construction sites. Ninety percent of construction companies in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) in New York are nonunion. According to OSHA, the SVEP focuses “on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.”

Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH, told DNAinfo, “The findings are clear, New York has an epidemic of construction site deaths and it has to stop.  We need to talk about how we can improve safety and crack down on criminal contractors and employers.”

The report also found that construction work at elevation is especially hazardous to workers.  

Roofing and siding workers take extreme risks to do their everyday jobs. In 2011 and 2012, falls to a lower level comprised 49 percent of construction fatalities in New York. Additionally, 71 percent of construction accidents with injuries reported to the New York City Buildings Department between 2008 and 2013 were height-related — workers who work at an elevation are at an increased risk. Eighty percent of roofing and siding contractor inspections between 2010 and 2012 resulted in violations, compared to two-thirds in all construction inspections. Contractors who violate health and safety regulations are often at fault when an employee is injured or killed.

This finding is especially timely given the push, at the behest of insurance companies, to ‘reform’ the state’s Scaffolding Law.  As we have reported in the past, the topic has lead to heated debate in Albany pitting labor against insurance lobbies.  

NYCOSH dedicates a large portion of their work to recommending that the Scaffolding Law remain in tact.

This report documents that there already are far too many preventable injuries at New York construction sites. Construction and insurance industry lobbyists must not be allowed to shift the
safety burden onto workers. Their proposed “reform” would relieve owners and contractors of an effective incentive to make worksites safer. The Scaffold Safety Law must be protected to prevent even more worker injuries and deaths.

Other causes of worker fatalities are the limited number of OSHA inspectors (71) to monitor the city’s hundreds of construction sites, and the willingness of city agencies to work with known safety offenders. Nearly 90 percent of contractors working on affordable housing projects have been issued OSHA violations in the past.  When violators are fined they are usually given little more than a “slap on the wrist.”  From the report:

Nationally,OSHA inspects fewer than four percent of construction sites. In New York, there are only 71 inspectors to monitor all worksites in all industries, so most construction sites are not inspected. When OSHA does inspect and cites violations, the penalties they asses are so low, they are a mere slap on the wrist, even if a worker died. The average penalty in fatal height-related construction accidents in New York in 2012 was only $7,620.

Click to read The Price of Life in its entirety.


No Comments on ““Price of Life” Report Reveals Uptick in 2015 NYC Fatalities, Heightened Danger on Non-Union Sites”

No one has commented on this entry yet.

Leave a Reply

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image