New York’s construction industry accounted for the largest single share of worker deaths in the state in 2012, according to a new report.
And half of those who died were immigrants reports “It’s No Accident: A Report on Workplace Deaths in New York State — Focus on Construction.”
The report was released during an event held Monday by the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) and the New York Central Labor Council.
The date — April 28 — is marked as Workers’ Memorial Day, honoring the memory of workers who died in the past year.
“It’s sad enough that all of these men and women died,” said Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health. “But to think that their deaths could have been prevented is just tragic.
“I hope our elected officials learn from these deaths and implement our common-sense recommendations before another preventable death occurs.”
The event also included testimony from construction workers who’ve been injured on the job, bricklayers spoke to the most recent fatalities in New York City, and a reading in honor of a worker who died doing transit work.
The names of workers who died in 2013 were read aloud and flowers were placed at a local work site.
“Workers’ Memorial Day is a time for us to mourn those who have died, but it’s also a time for us to fight for our brothers and sisters who are facing unsafe working conditions every day on the job,” said Lee Clarke, assistant to the president at DC 37 Local 1549 and chair of the NYCOSH Board.
The report found that it would take OSHA 103 years to inspect every New York work site. With only 71 inspectors, OSHA staffing is at its lowest level in five years.
It also determined that OSHA fines are too low to incentivize safety, with an average fine of $12,767.
The report calls for protection of New York’s Scaffold Safety Law, which holds employers accountable for accidents, and for an increase in OSHA’s budget and the number of inspectors and inspections it can conduct.
NYCOSH is also calling on the Federal Department of Labor to implement pilot projects targeting industries where high percentages of immigrants work, including construction, and to increase the number of OSHA staff who are qualified interpreters or fluent in common languages spoken by immigrant construction workers.
“How many workers’ must be injured or lose their lives before real safety precautions become standard for all worksites?” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
“Working men and women cannot be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, while employers allow the pursuit of profits to rule the day. As we remember these workers, we must reaffirm our commitment to continue to fight tirelessly for protections for all working men and women.”
The event was held at a work site at 435 West 50th Street where JDS Development is building a luxury apartment tower.
NYCOSH has labeled the site “unsafe” and it is the subject of open OSHA inspection after a “serious violation” was issued in relation to scaffolding at the site.
REW was unable to secure comment from JDS Development by press time.