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Construction Injuries & Deaths Rise While Safety Inspections Drop

Construction worker injuries and deaths have spiked in New York City in the last

few years as the number of safety inspections dropped, according to a study

detailed in the New York Daily News.


With an ongoing building surge, construction-related fatalities in the city rose

from 17 in 2011 to 25 in 2015, and in the state as a whole, including the city, from

33 to 55, according to the report by the New York Committee for Occupational

Safety & Health. Incidents involving either fatalities or injuries jumped from 128

in 2011 to 435 in 2015 in the state as a whole.


Meanwhile, the number of safety inspections by the federal Occupational Safety

and Health Administration and the state fell each year, from 2,722 in 2011 to 1,966

in 2015, the study found.


That’s a drop of about 27%, and the study said that’s mostly because of a reduction

in the number of OSHA inspectors in New York State — from 82 in 2012 to 66 in



“We really need to see and make sure that we have adequate inspections and

adequate enforcement, because without that we’re going to see higher numbers of

fatalities,” said New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health Executive

Director Charlene Obernauer.


Obernauer fears that under President-elect Donald Trump, who has championed

drastic reductions to regulations, the situation may grow worse. “It would have

such a catastrophic impact — not only in New York City but across the nation,” she



In the city, the most common fatality involved worker falls, accounting for 59% of

all construction-related deaths from 2011 through 2015. Only 36% of all

construction deaths nationwide are related to falls, the report says.


“In the past two calendar years, every two to three weeks New York City families

mourn the loss of a construction worker who likely died in a preventable accident,”

the report states.


The New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health examined 2,000 OSHA

site visits in New York State in 2014 and found nearly 70% resulted in safety

citations, the report states. The OSHA data show that most fatalities occurred at

nonunion sites (80% in 2014 and 74% in 2015). Of the contractors that OSHA dubbed

“severe violators” for repeat violations, 93% were nonunion in 2015.


On Wednesday, the City Council took up a package of 19 construction safety bills

backed by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The package included measures to require

heightened fall-safety protection, increase tracking of fatalities and hike penalties for

repeat-offender contractors.

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