NYCOSH REPORT: New York City Construction Worker Deaths Increase for Third Year in a Row

NEW YORK, NY – The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released its annual construction fatality report today, “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.” The report analyzed data from 2022, the most recent data year available, and found an increase in construction worker death rates in New York City. Fatalities, which are back up to pre-pandemic levelshave increased for the third year in a row. Construction work is especially deadly for Latinx workers, who make up just one-tenth of the workforce, but one-quarter of deaths on the job.

Twenty-four construction workers died in NYC in 2022, compared to 20 in 2021 (a 20% increase) and 13 in 2020 (an 85% increase in two years). The construction fatality rate decreased in New York State. New York City’s rate increased from 11.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2021 to 11.5 per 100,000 in 2022, a 2.7% increase. New York State’s rate decreased from 12.1 per 100,000 in 2021 to 9.6 per 100,000 in 2022 — a 21% decrease.

Latinx workers make up a disproportionately high percentage of worker fatalities in New York. An estimated 10% of New York State’s workers are Latinx, but in 2022, 25.4% of worker fatalities were of Latinx workers.

The report found that OSHA and the Department of Buildings were short-staffed and that inspections and enforcement were reduced. In 2022, OSHA construction fines for fatality cases decreased, ending a five-year trend of increases. The average fine amount in 2022 was $59,075, down from $67,681 in 2021 — a 13% decrease. This reversed a trend for the past five years of increasing OSHA fine amounts for construction fatalities.

“We see a decrease in agency enforcement and a trend of increasing fatalities in New York City, and of course we are concerned. We write this report to sound the alarm on construction safety and to remind New Yorkers that behind every fatality is a whole person who is a part of our communities,” said Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH Executive Director.   

Other key findings include:

  • Nonunion job sites remained especially dangerous for workers;
  • OSHA issued fewer press releases in 2022;
  • Contractors’ OSHA violations coincide with construction worker fatalities, but violations do not prevent contractors from receiving government subsidies.

To address rising construction fatalities across New York State, NYCOSH recommends the following measures in the report:

  • Preserve and enforce New York’s Scaffold Safety Law;
  • Require construction training and certification for New York State’s construction workers;
  • Protect Latinx and immigrant workers proactively;
  • 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 and increase funding to the NYC Department of Buildings;OSHA must issue a permanent infectious disease standard for all workers, including its own;
  • Mandate subsidy procurement reform and responsible contracting in New York State and New York City;
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