May 11, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Union members, elected officials and worker safety advocates held a press conference at City Hall to bring attention to a new report that reveals that many construction sites are poorly regulated and unsafe.
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health released on Monday morning “The Price of Life: 2015 Report on Construction Fatalities in New York City. On Friday the construction industry released its own report, prepared by the New York State Association for Affordable (NYSAFAH) Housing, and says that union construction sites have higher fatality rates than non-union sites.
Needless to say, union members and labor leaders at the presser, including Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, excoriated NYSAFAH’s report.
“A report that came out on Friday is nonsense and ridiculous. In this city, over 70 percent of the market share out of a $30 billion industry is union construction. The numbers are almost 80 percent of injury and fatalities in the non-union sector because those workers aren’t afforded the opportunity to go to apprentice, training and safety programs,” said LaBarbera.
Both reports emerge in the wake of an uptick in construction deaths in New York City. Just last week a worker at a construction site for a luxury hotel in Midtown Manhattan fell down an elevator shaft, plunging hundreds of feet to his death.
In the accompanying video, we spoke to Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH’s executive director, and asked what should the public take from NYCOSH’s report.
“Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the city that represents about 4 percent of total jobs but about 20 percent of occupational fatalities in the city and the state. On job sites there are contractors who aren’t following health and safety regulations. Two out of three of these contractors have OSHA violations when there’s a construction fatality,” said Obernauer.
The report calls for a number of recommendations and steps the City Council and city agencies can take to ensure that there are no more fatalities on construction sites.
“On the federal level, we need more resources from OSHA to ensure that job sites are safer. On the state level, we need to continue to support and maintain the Scaffold Safety Law, and at the city level contractors need to be scrutinized if they have a history of criminal negligence. We need to utilize existing criminal statutes in order to prosecute them. And we need to make sure that city money isn’t going to contractors that have a history of wage and OSHA violations,” Obernauer said.