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New York City Still Leads Nation in Construction Site Accidents

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

According to a report published by The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) earlier this year, New York City and the state of New York continue to lead the country in construction site accidents in spite of the work stoppages due to COVID-19.

According to the report, “The report, which analyzed newly available data from 2020, found that the construction industry in both New York State and New York City remained far more dangerous than the rest of the country, despite widespread work stoppages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Across New York State overall, the construction fatality rate increased from 10.2 per 100,000 workers to 11.1, or a 9% increase. In 2020, construction worker deaths accounted for 24% of all worker deaths in New York State, while nationally they comprised 21% of all worker deaths. 

In New York City, the construction fatality rate decreased for the first time after three years of consistent increases, yet remains above the national average, accounting for 22% of worker fatalities. While more long-term data are needed to determine the causes behind this decrease, the construction slowdown caused by the pandemic likely played a role. 

The report also found that, in 2020, OSHA conducted the lowest number of inspections in the agency’s history. This is also likely a result of the construction shutdown, but more analysis is needed to determine how this historic drop in oversight will set back efforts to safeguard worksites in subsequent years.”

Construction site accidents and tragic deaths continue to occur especially now that new construction has increased since the end of the worst of the pandemic.

In 2020, Latino workers made up 18% of worker fatalities while they comprised only 10% of the state population. The report also found that non-union job sites remain especially dangerous for workers, with 79% of worker deaths taking place on non-union worksites. 

“New York should be a national leader in worker safety, but the data reveal that we continue to lead the nation in construction worker fatalities, despite COVID-19 shutdowns. Lawmakers must protect and expand safety regulations to hold negligent contractors and companies accountable when they endanger workers. While we are fortunate to have many strong protections on the books – such as the scaffold safety law – we still need stiffer consequences, and I urge lawmakers to act,” said Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH Executive Director.

Construction must be safe work spaces for laborers.  This should be a high priority for both local and state elected officials.  It’s high time our city and state relinquish this dubious distinction concerning construction accidents.

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