constructionA report released by the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) indicates that construction is the deadliest industry in the state, and that immigrants comprise half of all construction deaths.

“It’s No Accident: A Report on Workplace Deaths in New York State—Focus on Construction”) contends that, with fines averaging $12,767, OSHA is unable to incentivize safety – even if the agency had sufficient inspectors to investigate problems and level fines.

“It would take OSHA 103 years to inspect every New York worksite,” say the report’s authors. “With only 71 inspectors, OSHA staffing is at its lowest level in 5 years.”

The report recommends:

  • Increasing OSHA’s budget and staff.
  • Increasing the number of OSHA staff members who are qualified interpreters and who are fluent in the most common languages spoken by Limited English Proficiency workers.
  • Implement federal Department of Labor pilot projects targeting specific industries where high percentages of immigrants work, including construction. 
  • Upholding New York’s Scaffold Safety Law, which has been the subject of scrutiny recently by the state legislature. NYCOSH says the law holds employers accountable when they cut corners on workers’ safety when working at heights and put workers lives at risk. Construction companies say the law makes them responsible for mistakes made by workers and adds to the cost of new buildings.

Click here to read the full report.

At a Workers’ Memorial Day event on Monday, the focus was on a worksite at 435 West 50th Street, which has been labeled an “unsafe worksite” by NYCOSH and is the target of an open OSHA inspection that issued a “serious violation” related to scaffolding to the construction company, JDS construction.

“We pay the price of the NYC housing boom,” said Antonio Sanchez, safety liaison of the Workers’ Justice Project. “Every day immigrant construction workers like myself put our lives at risk. Many have gotten injured because irresponsible contractors provide us defective and machinery, weak scaffolding, broken ladders or simply no safety protection. Others have lost their lives while building new building apartments for New Yorkers.”