Report: NYC Construction Deaths Increased for Third Year in a Row Before Pandemic
While movers and shakers like to measure the city’s progress in projects and developments, the breakthroughs often come at a deadly cost. And construction workers pay the price at a rate that outpaces the nation, where only 19% of all worker deaths can be attributed to the construction trade.
Researchers relied on data from 2019, the year statistics on construction deaths was most recently available. They said it would be difficult to assess the numbers from 2020 because the pandemic brought construction to a halt.
“Construction continues to be one of the most dangerous industries in the country, with workers risking their lives every day to build New York,” according to the “Deadly Skyline” annual report issued by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.
According to the study, New York City’s construction death increased in 2019 for the third year in a row. Twenty-four construction workers died in 2019, compared to 22 in 2018. Over the past 10 years, 20 construction workers died on average each year in the city, with a total of 215 construction worker fatalities.
The lowest number of fatalities during that stretch was in 2011, when there were 14 construction deaths. The highest was in 2014, when there were 28.
Across the country, construction is one of the most dangerous industries for workers, accounting for 1,061 out of 5,333 worker fatalities in 2019, 19%, despite construction workers making up just 4% of the nation’s workforce, the report said.
Hispanics make up a disproportionately high percentage of worker fatalities in New York . An estimated 10% of New York state’s workers are Hispanic, but in 2019, 20.5% of workers who died on the job were Hispanic.
Researchers said the Hispanic construction worker death toll is high in New York because they are routinely exploited by employers who willfully violate safety and health protections on the job. The workers, many of them immigrants, are less likely to report violations out of fear, the report said.
Another factor in the death toll is the roll unions play. Non-union job sites are especially dangerous for workers.
Non-union contractors have little oversight outside of government regulatory agencies. Union job sites have shop stewards and a trained workforce that are more likely to recognize and report safety violations and have protection provided by their unions against employer retaliation, according to the report.
Researchers suggested several steps to improve safety, including increased fines for job site violations, increased funding for safety education and training, and expanding prosecution of criminal contractors.
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