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First Year of Pandemic Shows Increase in Construction Deaths in New York

Construction in the streets of New York

An experienced New York City construction accident lawyer breaks down the problem

The construction industry saw an alarming increase in deaths in the first year of the pandemic than in years prior.

The spread of COVID-19 in 2020 caused many construction sites to shut down, which resulted in fewer people being employed. Even so, New York still saw an increased fatality rate in construction accidents.

New York construction fatality statistics

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries for workers. According to a recent report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), 41 workers were killed on construction sites in New York in 2020. Thirteen of these deaths occurred specifically in New York City. Overall, the deaths represented a 9 percent increase in the state's fatality rate.

In a data analysis from the New York Department of Buildings, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and OSHA, it was revealed that workplace deaths in the construction industry accounted for 21% of all workplace fatalities nationwide. In New York, construction deaths represent 24% of all workplace fatalities in the state.

Why is the fatality rate increasing?

Federal regulators conducted the lowest number of inspections ever in the state in 2020. The decline was 53% from the previous year.

Most workplace deaths occur when there is a lack of precaution, protection, and care for the workers. In fact, in 97% of the cases where a construction worker died, the workers' employers had OSHA violations.

These violations can range from failure to issue fall protection to having untrained workers.

Findings from the OSHA report

Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH Executive Director, told Construction Dive that New York should be a national leader in worker safety. But the findings from the OSHA report showed otherwise.

These findings include:

  • The inspections conducted by OSHA in 2020 were the fewest in the agency's history, due mainly to the pandemic.
  • OSHA fines for fatalities increased for the 5th year in a row.
  • Almost 80% of worker deaths were on non-union job sites.

Union and non-union workers

According to the Gotham Gazette, labor advocates credit NY construction deaths to gaps in union representation, the ill-treatment of immigrant workers, and a system that does little to nothing to punish contractors for unsafe working conditions.

Four out of five fatalities on private construction sites in 2020 happened on jobs where workers were not unionized.

Furthermore, it is less likely that Latino construction workers are unionized. Hispanic workers specifically held about half of all non-union construction jobs from 2006 to 2015, according to a study from the Economic Policy Institute.

Some that are undocumented are taken advantage of because they are afraid to speak up about safety violations or other potentially hazardous situations that may lead to a construction accident.

Regardless of immigration status, all construction workers have a legal right to work in a safe environment.

How a construction accident attorney can help when you've been injured on the job

If you were hurt in a construction accident, you need an experienced construction accident attorney to protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.

At Keogh Crispi, P.C., we're known for successfully representing injured construction workers in New York City and throughout the state. Discover what our law firm can do for you. Contact us to schedule your free consultation today.

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