A report issued yesterday by the New York Committee For Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) [PDF], found that the majority of construction worker deaths—fifteen statewide in 2014, eight of which took place within the five boroughs—can be chalked up to safety violations at high altitudes.
71% of construction injuries reported to the DOB between 2008 and 2013 were height related. And between 2010 and 2012, two thirds of construction site violations were for faulty scaffolds, ladders, and other fall-prevention equipment.
The report excerpts several press releases from the National Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the organization that conducts safety checks on New York construction sites, to show that fall-prevention violations are often accompanied by other serious violations. Here's one example:
Brooklyn, July 2014. “[A]n OSHA inspector discovered... employees working on the second-and third-floor levels without fall protection” and “other fall hazards including missing guardrails for planking used by the employees to access different sections of the second- and third-floor levels.” Employees also “faced dangers of lacerations and broken bones from being struck by falling construction materials and debris and electric burns and shock from handling ungrounded power tools.”
So far this year, unsafe worksite conditions have resulted in nine construction worker deaths, DNAInfo reports. In February, a construction worker at the Barclays Center was fatally struck by falling beams. Another construction worker died at an active site in the Meatpacking District in April, and Trevor Loftus, 40, was struck and killed by a malfunctioning crane in Midtown later that month.
And just last week, another construction worker fell to his death, tumbling down a 24-story elevator shaft at the site of the future luxury Riu Hotel at Times Square.
Construction workers and advocates rallied outside of City Hall yesterday, demanding safer working conditions on city construction sites, as well as harsher consequences for construction companies that commit safety violations. DNAInfo reported on testimony from Monica Valezquez, who's father Delfino was killed last fall when the roof of Staten Island car dealership collapsed under him. "I miss my father every single day and my heart aches because I know his death was entirely avoidable," Valezquez said.
One of the primary recommendations outlined in NYCOSH's report is higher, more intimidating fines for safety violations. The average penalty for fatal construction accidents in 2012 was about $7,600. That, coupled with the pitiful inspection force (New York State only has 71 OSHA inspectors for all of its worksites), has contributed to the current situation—private construction companies just don't take safety inspections seriously.