Construction Worker Fatalities in New York Outpaced Pre-Pandemic Deaths

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Construction workers in New York state died at a higher rate in 2021 than the year prior, and those deaths outpaced pre-pandemic fatalities, according to a new report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).

In total, 61 workers were killed on construction sites in the state in 2021, a 9 percent increase compared to 2020, according to NYCOSH 2023 “Deadly Skyline” report. New York’s spike in deaths in 2021 coincided with a nationwide decrease of on-site fatalities, with the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics showing a 2.2 percent dip.

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New York City’s average alone clocked in at 11.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2021. Meanwhile the rest of the nation saw an average of 9.4 workers killed per 100,000 workers.

While comparing construction worker fatalities to 2020 may seem like an unfair comparison considering government-mandated shutdowns at the onset of the pandemic, 2021 still saw a far higher average number of fatalities in New York compared to the last 10 years, during which 53.6 workers died on an annual basis.

Hispanic workers in particular suffered greater losses in 2021. Despite only comprising about 10 percent of the construction workforce in the state, 25.5 percent of those who died due to on-the-job accidents were Hispanic, according to NYCOSH.

The data used in NYCOSH’s annual Deadly Skyline report comes not only from Bureau of Labor Statistics, but also the New York City Department of Buildings, the state Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

New York lawmakers in Albany continue to push for improving data on construction worker deaths. February 2022 saw the passage of the Workplace Fatalities Registry bill — sponsored by State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa — which forces employers to report time and cause of death to the New York State Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, NYCOSH is pushing for legislation like Carlos’ Law to get passed, which would subject developers to $500,000 to $1 million worth of fines in felony cases when unsafe conditions lead to a jobsite death, instead of the current $100,000 fine. It would also stipulate $300,000 to $500,000 in fines for misdemeanors.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.