Even in 2020, Construction Was NYC’s Deadliest Industry

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Despite a significant construction slowdown in 2020 because of the pandemic, the construction industry still saw more deaths than any other in New York City that year, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Overall, 59 people died on the job in New York City in 2020. Of those, 13 were construction workers. Laborers falling, tripping or slipping on job sites accounted for five of those 13 deaths. 

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Within the construction industry, eight workers employed by specialty trade contractors died in 2020, while building equipment contractors — who install HVAC, electricity, water and elevator systems — saw four worker deaths. 

Retail was the second deadliest industry in the five boroughs in 2020, with seven deaths, followed by transportation/warehousing and accommodation/food services, which tied for third with with six deaths apiece. 

Construction deaths were down from 2019’s reported total of 24 fatalities, likely because there were fewer workers on job sites during the height of the pandemic. 

Non-union job sites remained particularly deadly in 2020, while accounting for the majority of the residential construction in the five boroughs. A report released last month by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) found that 79 percent of people who died on private construction sites were non-union. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also conducted 50 percent fewer site inspections in New York State in 2020 than it did in 2019. The federal labor agency did 2,080 inspections in 2020, down from 4,455 inspections in 2019, NYCOSH found.

Across all industries, Latino workers accounted for the highest share — 39 percent — of workplace fatalities in the city in 2020, followed by white workers with 31 percent and Black workers at 19 percent. 

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com.