A worrying number of construction workers are being killed in workplace accidents in New York, and an advocacy group says that lax safety standards on nonunion constructions sites and less-than-vigorous enforcement of industry safety standards by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are largely to blame. The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health made the claims in its most recent annual report.
According to the NYCOSH report, construction site deaths in New York increased by a worrying 41 percent from 50 in 2014 to 71 in 2016. The most common cause of death cited was falls, and most of the workers killed were employed on nonunion sites where the group says fall protection regulations are often ignored. NYCOSH puts the blame for the soaring fatality rate squarely on employers and regulators and points out that it cannot be explained by increased construction activity.
OSHA was severely criticized in the report because inspections of construction sites in New York fell by more than 62 percent between 1986 and 2017. This is worrying because according to NYCOSH figures, OSHA inspections performed at construction sites in New York where workers died uncovered safety violations 82 percent of the time.
Construction workers who are injured in workplace accidents or the dependent family members of killed workers may pursue workers’ compensation claims, but there are situations where filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit could be prudent. Workers’ compensation programs are designed in part to protect employers from litigation filed by their workers, but exceptions are sometimes made to this general rule. Attorneys with experience in construction site accident cases may recommend a civil lawsuit when employers have acted with negligence so severe that death or serious injury became a reasonably foreseeable outcome. Examples of gross negligence include the routine violation of safety regulations and ordering workers to perform dangerous tasks with little to no training or inadequate protective equipment.