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Advocacy report shows construction injury risk

A recent report on construction injuries in New York showed that workers in this occupation remain at risk for serious and even fatal injuries. While this work remains dangerous, efforts are being made to weaken laws designed to protect workers.

In its 2015 report, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health cited research found that the industry’s overall death rate dropped from 11.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2004 to 8.6 in the state in 2013. New York also had the sixth lowest injury rate for construction workers in the United States from 2000 to 2012.

However, construction work accounts for nearly 20 percent of occupational deaths in the state even though it constitutes only four percent of employment. Workers who work on scaffolds and at elevated heights face special risks and accounted for nearly half of construction deaths in the state. In New York City, 71 percent of construction accidents reported to its Buildings Department between 2008 and 2013 were associated with height. Falls to a lower level accounted for 49 percent of construction deaths in the state in 2011 and 2012. Other workers face hazards posed by open stairways and elevator shafts.

Despite the many accidents and violations, OSHA has only 71 inspectors in New York What’s more, even one problems are discovered, assessed penalties are very low. The average fine in fatal height-related accidents was only $7,620 in New York in 2012.

But while enforcement resources may be low, that does not change the fact that building owners may face premises liability for unsafe construction site or equipment. Prompt legal assistance should be sought to help assure that the right to reasonable compensation for serious injuries is protected.