Deadly Skyline Report Shows NY Fatality Rate Among Construction Workers Rose in 2020

construction worker laying on ground

Construction is a one of the country’s most dangerous occupations, but it was even more so in the first year of the pandemic, according to the latest Deadly Skyline report published by the New York Committee of Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).

The 2022 Deadly Skyline report, based on data from 2020, covered the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, which shuttered job sites for months on end and resulted in fewer workplace fatalities overall, including 41 in New York and 13 in New York City.

But despite the lower number of worker deaths, researchers found that the fatality rate among construction workers increased by 9% statewide.

Other Findings from the 2022 Deadly Skyline Report

  1. NY State and NYC fatality rate was higher than the national average. Construction deaths accounted for 22% of all workplace fatalities in NYC and 24% of all worker deaths statewide, compared to 21% nationally.
  2. Non-union job sites were especially dangerous. Most construction workers who died on the job were non-union (79%), with Latino workers accounting for 18% of worker fatalities, despite comprising just 10% of the state’s workforce.
  3. OSHA fines increased. The average OSHA fine issued for fatality cases in 2020 increased from $32k in 2019 to $44k in 2020. The largest fine was issued to a scaffolding contractor for $300k.
  4. OSHA conducted fewest site inspections on record. OSHA conducted over 50% fewer inspections in 2020, the lowest on record in NY State. That’s a major red flag considering that on job sites where workers died, employers had existing OSHA violations 97% of the time.

While 2020 was far from normal, safety advocates say the data show several persistent factors remain unaddressed, including gaps in union representation and exploitation of immigrant workers.

As noted by the report, unionized workers typically have access to better training and apprenticeships, as well as clearer channels to report violations and support against employer retaliation when they do. Non-union workers lack this important backing, as do non-immigrant workers, many of whom are exploited because they fear losing their jobs or being reported for their immigration status.

Researchers also noted the importance of protecting against fall-related hazards, which continue to kill and injure the state’s construction workforce at alarming rates.

Some of the report’s recommendations included:

  1. Requiring training and certification for construction workers statewide.
  2. Preserving the state’s Scaffold Law (NY Labor Law § 240), which gives workers and families the right to sue employers and site owners after injury or death due to an elevation hazard.
  3. Passing Carlos’ Law to increase penalties for criminal contractors.
  4. Expanding criminal prosecutions of contractors statewide and using existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors.
  5. Increasing OSHA’s budget.

Read the full Deadly Skyline report here.

Our attorneys at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., closely follow trends and data involving the construction industry and the safety of our local worksites. And while we’ve seen a lot of change and progress since our founding in 1983, we remain invested in advocating for better worker protections and fighting for workers and families from all walks of life as they see justice through workers’ compensation and personal injury claims following construction accidents.

If you have questions about our team or the cases we handle, contact us for a free consultation.

The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C.

For over 40 years, David H. Perecman has distinguished himself as one of the leading personal injury lawyers in New York City, championing all types of personal injury cases including construction accidents, premises accidents, automobile accidents, and medical malpractice, along with employment discrimination, false arrest, and civil rights cases.