It seems like common sense: when there are fewer work site inspections, there will be more safety violations and accidents. Safety advocates have been saying it for decades. And according to a recent report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health, this conventional wisdom is proving true on work sites across the city.
Over the past several years, New York state saw a significant drop in occupational safety inspections – from 2,722 in 2011 to 1,966 in 2015. During the same time period, workplace incidents involving injury or death jumped from 128 to 435 – more than tripling in just four years. Fatalities in New York City jumped from 17 in 2011 to 25 in 2015.
Bad news for workers across the state
An overall increase in construction accidents and fatalities is very serious, but the bad news in the occupational safety report doesn’t stop there. The Committee also released these troubling findings:
- New York City sees a disproportionate number of worker deaths caused by falls. While falls account for 36 percent of construction fatalities nationwide, they made up 59 percent of NYC construction deaths.
- In the past two calendar years, preventable accidents have killed a construction worker every two to three weeks in New York state.
- During 2014, nearly 70 percent of all work site visits conducted by OSHA resulted in at least one safety citation.
The union vs. nonunion debate continues
According to the report, a sizable majority of safety citations were issued at nonunion construction sites. Nonunion sites accounted for 80 percent of citations in 2014 and 74 percent in 2015 (keep in mind that nonunion sites hold this majority despite making up less than half of all work sites). Even more telling, 93 percent of “severe” violators, or those with multiple, substantial OSHA violations were nonunion.
As New York continues to struggle with worker safety and examine the importance of labor unions in protecting workers, we hope to see this trend reverse. For now, it remains essential that injured workers and their families exercise their rights under the law. It is always wise to contact an attorney if you have any concerns about your medical bills or legal issues after a work-related injury.