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United States Of America – The United States was already dealing with a sharp consistent worker death rate prior to the Pandemic. We knew this. What we are seeing now is a compounded accelerated increase and it is spreading to vehicle, equipment, hauling, warehousing and trucking. Workers are being pushed to the limits at home and at work. Mostly low income workers and single parents. Minority mortal incidents have been increasing as well with a focus on Latino laborers. Latino deaths have been increasing due to multiple variables, the most notable; being undocumented.
American workers, especially construction and supply chain, never got a stay home break. Instead roads are being laid, 275 degree asphalt tamped and rolled, trucks being loaded, trees being cut and milled. The virus has not been killing these workers. Desperation on fronts ranging from lack of leadership, funds, labor availability and national needs has. Accidents are increasing throughout the industry from exhaustion, lack of screening, lack of education, lack of technology training, lack of safety oversight, lack of workers and lack of pay.
New York Construction Fatalities
One of the largest increases in construction worker fatalities is New York State. NYCOSH, New York Committee For Occupational Safety & Health, just made public on February 9th, 2022 a report outlining the State’s specific concerns. New York City’s construction worker fatality rates actually decreased for the first time in 3 Years for 2020 but we do not see the aggregated data for 2021 and 2022 accumulating to good news.
The report, which analyzed newly available data from 2020, found that despite widespread work stoppages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction industry in both New York State and New York City remained significantly more dangerous than the rest of the country. The construction fatality rate in New York State increased from 10.2 per 100,000 workers to 11.1, a 9 percent increase.
Construction worker deaths accounted for 24% of all worker deaths in New York State in 2020, and 21% of all worker deaths nationally.
After three years of consistent increases, the construction fatality rate in New York City decreased for the first time in three years, but remains above the national average, accounting for 22% of worker fatalities. While additional long-term data are needed to determine the causes of this decline, the pandemic-related construction slowdown almost certainly played a role.
Additionally, the report found that OSHA conducted the fewest inspections in its history in 2020.
This is also likely a result of the construction shutdown, but additional analysis is necessary to determine the extent to which this historic lapse in oversight will jeopardize future efforts to safeguard worksite safety.
Latino Construction Worker Fatalities
In New York State, Latino construction workers continue to be disproportionately likely to die on the job. Latino workers accounted for 18% of worker fatalities in 2020, despite representing only 10% of the state’s population. Additionally, the report found that non-union job sites continue to be particularly dangerous for workers, accounting for 79 percent of worker fatalities. The report seems to correlate this statistic to Latino’s taking jobs under the table, day pay due to documentation restraints. This is also alarming because the same statistic would also suppress workplace injury and death reporting.
Statements From Officials
“New York should be a national leader in worker safety, but the data reveal that we continue to lead the nation in construction worker fatalities, despite COVID-19 shutdowns. Lawmakers must protect and expand safety regulations to hold negligent contractors and companies accountable when they endanger workers. While we are fortunate to have many strong protections on the books – such as the scaffold safety law – we still need stiffer consequences, and I urge lawmakers to act,”
-Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH Executive Director.
“This report makes clear that much more must be done to ensure that the safety of workers remains the number one priority on all construction sites across New York,” – The rate of construction fatalities in New York is unacceptable, and it’s critical that decision makers continue to advance measures that bring the operation of all construction sites in line with the safety standards and protocols required at union construction sites. I urge lawmakers to continue to defend the state’s scaffold safety law, increase oversight and enact stiffer penalties against bad actors.”
–Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
“It is unconscionable that corrupt contractors and irresponsible companies profit at the expense of immigrant workers’ safety,” – “Latinx and non-union workers must be able to make a living while staying alive. Community organizations like NICE train and educate workers to stay safe, but without stronger regulations, our efforts are not enough. We need the support and leadership of New York lawmakers to end this epidemic of fatalities in construction.”
–Diana Moreno, Interim Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE).
Other Key Finding Notes:
- OSHA construction fines for fatality cases increased for the 5th year in a row.
- OSHA issued fewer press releases in 2021.
- Contractors’ OSHA violations coincide with construction worker fatalities, but violations do not prevent contractors from receiving government subsidies.
- Require construction training and certification for New York State’s construction workers
- Preserve New York’s Scaffold Safety Law
- Pass Carlos’ Law to increase penalties against criminal contractors
- Expand criminal prosecutions of contractors statewide
- Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors
- Double OSHA’s budget
- OSHA must issue a permanent infectious disease standard for all workers, including its own
- Increase funding to the New York City Department of Buildings
- Mandate subsidy procurement reform and responsible contracting in New York State and New York City
- Protect Latino and immigrant workers proactively
The construction fatality data does not include the many construction workers that perished due to on-the-job exposure to COVID or other occupational illnesses.
E-Verify Bill And What You Need To Know
The events and reports that strong support will now follow with a bill set forth called E-Verify. New York State Senator Jessica Ramos has been working on this Bill. Ramos is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit employers from checking employees’ immigration status using the federal electronic background check system known as “E-Verify,” which she claims forces undocumented New Yorkers to take less safe, non-union jobs. She stands behing the statistics that this is the sole reason that undocumented workers are unable to join a union in the construction industry.
While New York State does not require employers to use the E-Verify system, municipalities may impose such a requirement. If enacted credible statements have been made that the legislation could be challenged in court. Additionally, the NYCOSH anBut this is true d Ramos want to see worker protections incorporated into government subsidies. For NYCOSH, this means the end of subsidies to developers who violate safety standards, given the high number of fatal worksite violations. Ramos believes this means eliminating the state’s property tax abatement program, formerly known as 421-A, a contentious affordable housing subsidy that critics claim provides little public benefit.
Governor Kathy Hochul has released a slightly revised version of what was 421-A, now dubbed Affordable New York, as part of her 2022 agenda, but it will be debated in the Legislature.
Many variables are adding to the rapid increase in worker deaths throughout the United States. One of the alarming red flags Bylt Analysts have seen is in the latest Productivity Data releases from December and January. They continue to increase. Not in a good way as it may look. More work put and completed on a single laborer or technician. It appears to that worker rights are being pushed to the limit causing increased fatigue, exhaustion and leading to deaths and avoidable accidents. A background on some additional recent accidents and events can be found here: LINK