Report: New York state construction fatalities hit 14-year high in 2016
- A study by the New York Committee for OSHA found that the state's construction fatalities hit a 14-year high in 2016, increasing to 71 from 55 in 2015, The News & Observer reported. The 2016 figure represents the highest number of construction deaths in the state since 2002.
- The study also revealed that New York is among the 10 states with the most construction fatalities, with workers dying at 4.6 times the pace of all workers nationwide. The report's author said that one of the reasons for the uptick is reduced funding to OSHA, which resulted in fewer site inspections.
- In contrast, the study found that construction fatalities in New York City dropped from 25 to 21 during the same period, leading the committee to recommend that the state adopt more of the city's safety compliance strategies.
New York City has been at the forefront of safety regulation, with action from the City Council, the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
After 22-year-old immigrant worker Carlos Moncayo died in a trench collapse in 2015, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance formed a construction fraud task force that investigates and prosecutes safety violations and construction fraud in the city. Vance brought criminal charges against Moncayo's employers, an action almost unheard of in the industry at the time.
In response to a demand for tighter safety regulations, New York City's DOB also changed its rules to require agency-licensed supervisors on certain construction sites. A site safety coordinator must be present on projects between 10 and 14 stories, and a site safety manager must be stationed on jobs where the building is 15 stories or higher or more than 100,000 square feet.
The New York City Council's safety efforts, however, probably spurred the most contentious debate. The city has proposed and passed several safety measures recently, but the suggestion that all construction workers go through an apprenticeship program – or have comparable training – pitted non-union and union factions against each other as non-union contractors complained that half the city's apprenticeship options were union-backed.
The city council ended up passing a measure in September that requires construction workers to complete 40 hours of safety training during the next one to three years. Those who have had 100 hours of training or have completed an apprenticeship program are exempt.
Follow Kim Slowey on Twitter