Construction workers from various trades, union officials, labor leaders and supporters rallied in Manhattan Wednesday morning to urge the New York City Council to pass the Construction Safety Act to strengthen construction site safety.
The proposed safety act comes as the number of construction site deaths continues to rise in the city. Between 2011 and 2015, construction worker fatalities in New York state rose from 33 to 55, according to “Deadly Skyline,” a study released Wednesday by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health. Of those deaths, 25 were in New York City.
Over that same time period, safety inspections made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration dropped from 2,722 to 1,966.
The Deadly Skyline study findings include:
- New York City has the highest fatal occupational injury rate in construction, at 4.7 times the overall rate. In New York City, the construction sector sees more than one-third (34 percent) of workplace deaths, despite the fact that it employs approximately three percent of the total workforce. In Los Angeles and Chicago, where construction employs a similar proportion of the workforce, the industries see 32 percent and 24 percent of workplace deaths, respectively.
- Between 2014 and 2015, building construction-related incidents involving injuries or fatalities almost doubled in New York City. In 2014 there were 231 incidents and in 2015 there were 435 -an 88 percent increase over the previous year.
- Falls are the top cause of construction-related deaths in New York City.In NYC, 59.4 construction-related deaths in the five years comprising 2011 to 2015 were the result of falls. The national average is 36.3 percent.
- Of the almost 4,000 safety citations issued related to fall protection, scaffold safety, or stairway/ladder safety in the city, 46 percent related to failure by employers to take fall protection measures.
“If 30 people died at their jobs in the last two years in any other industry we wouldn’t have to fight for basic safety measures to be implemented in their workplace, but apparently for the safety of construction workers we do,” said Terry Moore Business Manager Local 46 Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Iron Workers, in a press release. “So we’re out here today doing just that, fighting for the right of every worker to make it home safely at the end of the day. The question for the administration if they choose to oppose this legislation is, How many more must die?”
The Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust, (GNY LECET) argues that developers have ignored basic safety requirements and training on job sites throughout the City in the rush to cash in on the real estate boom.
“Today we say enough is enough,” said Mike Hellstrom, Organizing Director, for the 17,000 member Mason Tenders District Council, LIUNA. “Too many workers have left for work in the morning, never to return home. Today we make sure that the dead have a voice in demanding safe work sites for all construction workers, union and non-union. Providing a highly trained, safe workforce on a constructions site, whether they are large or small, is not a political or economic issue; it is a moral issue. Today marks a turning point in our fight for safe jobs. The Speaker and City Council are to be commended for the leadership they have shown.”
So far, the mayor has not taken a position on the bills, but in the past he has said he supports union work and an increase in training.
Thirty-one arrests were made when supporters blocked streets outside New York City Hall.