Latest Fatality Report Shows NYC Construction Deaths Are Rising

Construction on NY building

On March 5, 2020, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released its “Deadly Skyline” publication – the organization’s annual, research-based report that details the latest trends and statistics related to fatalities in New York’s construction industry.

It’s major takeaway? Construction fatalities decreased statewide, but rates of construction deaths in New York City are rising. What’s more, researchers note, construction employers routinely violate regulations and safety standards with little threat of consequence.

Key Findings From NYCOSH’s Latest Deadly Skyline Report

NYCOSH’s Deadly Skyline provides an invaluable glimpse into the most pressing issues affecting construction workers today, as well as insight that can be used to make recommendations which protect workers from preventable tragedies.

Though published in 2020, the latest report deals primarily with data from 2018 and years prior. Some of its key findings include:

  1. Construction Deaths Down Statewide: Researchers found that while construction remained a highly dangerous occupation in 2018, fatalities deceased throughout the state as compared to recent years. Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 14.7% decrease in construction worker fatalities (69 deaths in 2017 and 58 in 2018) statewide.
  2. NYC Construction Fatalities Trend Upward: While construction fatalities were on a downward trend statewide, New York City saw the opposite. In 2018, 22 construction workers were killed on the job, as compared to 20 in 2017 – a 10% increase.
  3. NY & NYC Fatality Rates Align: NYC’s construction fatality rate rose from 7.8 deaths per 100,000 construction workers to 10.0 per 100,000 in 2018. Meanwhile, New York’s state’s death rate fell from 12.2 to 10.5, bringing those rates closer together.
  4. Non-Union Sites Remain High Risk: According to the 23 construction fatality citations investigated by OSHA in 2017, 86% of workers killed on private worksites in New York were non-union. In NYC, 83% were non-union. OSHA only investigates worker fatalities on private job sites.
  5. Latino Workers Deaths Disproportionately High: Continuing with a pre-existing trend, Latino workers comprise a disproportionately high percentage of worker fatalities in New York; an estimated 10% of NY workers are Latino, but 19% of worker deaths involved Latino workers.
  6. Older Workers Face Higher Death Rates: According to data, workers in older age groups die from construction accidents at higher rates. In 2018, workers 55-64 were most likely to die on the job, followed by workers 35-44.
  7. Average OSHA Fines Increased, But Still Remain Low: The average fine issued by OSHA for fatality cases increased from $21,592 in 2017 to $25,178 in 2018. OSHA’s highest fine for a NY construction fatality in 2018 was just over $224,600.

Based on the data, researchers made a number of recommendations for improving worker safety in construction. In addition to funding increases to NYC’s Department of Buildings, protecting at-risk demographics proactively, and implementing a subsidy procurement reform, researchers made several recommendations to deter contractors and employers from putting workers at risk.

Given OSHA’s enforcement inadequacies, many of these suggestions rest on expanding New York’s own power to protect construction worker safety by:

  • Preserving New York’s Scaffold Law
  • Passing Carlos’ Law to increase penalties for criminal contractors
  • Expanding criminal prosecution of contractors statewide
  • Suspending or revoking criminal contractor’s construction licenses and permits

New York City continues to thrive on the back of the construction industry, which has seen a bountiful time of prosperity and construction project spending. Though jobs are certainly welcomed, it’s important that the hard-working men and women who perform them be protected, and that they be fairly compensated when accidents occur.

The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., has long advocated for the rights of injured workers and their families, and has recovered millions in compensation for construction accident victims. If you have questions about a construction accident anywhere in the City or the state of NY, our team is available to review your potential case and discuss your rights. Contact us for a free consultation.

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.