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Deaths Rebound with Construction

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

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New York City's surging construction activity has been good news for the city and employment, but it has exacted a little-known toll in workers' lives, federal safety officials report.

Twenty-one construction workers were killed on New York's work sites in 2012—the same total as in the previous three years combined, according to "Construction Safety in New York City 2012," written by Kay Gee, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's area director in Manhattan.

Gee presented the annual report card June 26 at the NYC District Council of Carpenters' Labor Trade Technical College.

Just days before, the New York Building Congress reported that construction activity in the city was booming, generating employment gains that matched 2007 levels.

OSHA Construction Fatalities
OSHA / Koralie Hill

Construction fatalities in NYC increased dramatically from six in 2011 to 21 in 2012, according to OSHA. The greatest number of deaths occur from fall hazards.

Gee noted that the increase in construction fatalities "may be due to the upswing in construction in New York City."

Fatalities Through the Years

According to OSHA's data, 180 construction workers were killed in New York City from 2003 through 2012. The highest number of deaths occurred in 2008 (32), followed by 2006 (29) and 2004 (23). In 2009, 2010 and 2011, construction deaths totaled 8, 7 and 6, respectively.

The data were for New York City's five boroughs throughout the federal fiscal year, which extends from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

From 2008 through 2012, OSHA reported a total of 116 construction and non-construction (general industry) fatalities. The highest number was in 2008 (39), followed by 2012 (28).

The fatalities included:

  • 51 falls;
  • 34 crush/collapse/caught;
  • 11 struck bys;
  • Eight electrical; and
  • Six overcome/asphyxiation.

Immigration and language factors played roles in 55 of the deaths, according to OSHA. Non-union members made up 75, or 65 percent, of the fatalities.

"The number-one leading cause of the fatalities in construction is falls, and this has been a leading trend throughout the years, and we're trying to drive that down," Gee told LaborPress.

"I just wanted to say that we have an emphasis on fall protection. We're doing a program emphasizing outreach nationwide about the prevention of fall deaths in construction."

2012 Fatalities

In 2012, there were 21 fatalities:

  • Eight from falls from heights;
  • Eight from crushing/collapse;
  • Four struck by fatalities; and
  • One from an "other" hazard.
NYC Construction Fatalities

The increase in deaths "may be due to the upswing of construction" in New York, an OSHA official said.

Of the 21 fatalities, 48 percent were coded "no" for immigration or language factors, and 52 percent were coded "yes." Contributing factors include workers being foreign-born and/or Hispanic, speaking a language other than English, or speaking a language different than that spoken at the jobsite.

OSHA also reported that 72 percent of the 2012 deaths were non-union members and 28 percent were union members.

Company size was also studied, with smaller employers hit hardest. OSHA found that 13 of the 21 deaths occurred in companies with 30 or fewer employees; three, in companies with 31 to 100 employees; and five, in companies with 101 or more employees.

Non-construction fatalities for 2012 totaled seven: three in Manhattan, two in Queens, and two in Staten Island. Four of the deaths were from falls (two from ladder, one elevated platform, and one window washer); two were from elevator repair-related crushing; and one was from electrical contact of live parts in a control panel during troubleshooting. Two of the seven deaths were union members, and two had immigration or language factors.

"If you are an immigrant, if you speak Spanish or another language, if you are Latino, you are much more likely to be killed on a construction site," Lenore Friedlaender, of the property services workers union 32BJ SEIU and a campaign director for Build Up NYC, told LaborPress.

'Race to the Bottom'

OSHA also reported on the number of construction accidents in 2012 in New York's five boroughs: 58 in Manhattan, 20 in Brooklyn, 10 in Queens, zero in Staten Island, and no data for the Bronx.

vertikal.net

In 2008, a falling tower crane killed seven people and injured at least 20 others at a construction site in Manhattan.

The accidents included:

  • 43 from falls;
  • 15 from struck by;
  • Nine from collapse/crush;
  • Nine from "other";
  • Five from electrical; and
  • Four from cranes.

OSHA conducted 741 construction inspections throughout New York City in 2012, officials said. These inspections resulted in 1,117 serious/willful/repeat citations; 191 other-than-serious citations; and approximately $3.46 million in penalties.

Of these inspections, 79 percent were reported as non-union status and 21 percent were union status.

"There's a race to the bottom in the construction industry, and in many of our industries, where employers try to compete based on how they can drive wages down, how they can reduce anything that cost money," said Friedlaender.

"And one of the things that cost money is providing good safety training and making sure people have opportunities."

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA

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