The report states that a total of 219 workers were killed as a result of occupational injuries in New York State in 2007; 81 died in New York City. Though this is a decline from the 234 workers who died in New York state and the 99 killed in New York City in 2006, immigrant, minority and non-union workers continue to be at particular risk for on-the-job fatalities, the report said.
Key findings include:
The number of OSHA inspectors in New York state is insufficient to protect its workers. OSHA actually had fewer inspectors in the state in 2007 than in 2001. The ratio of inspectors to workers covered in New York state is 1:88,731, which far exceeds the International Labor Organization benchmark for industrialized nations of 1:10,000 workers.
OSHA’s penalty structure is insufficient to serve as a deterrent. The average proposed OSHA fine resulting from a fatality inspection in New York state was $5,193. This is well below the national average of $12,226 for penalties for fatalities in 2007. Not one employer cited for a hazard leading to fatality was referred to the Solicitor’s Office for criminal prosecution, according to the report.
Fatalities among construction workers remained among the highest of all occupational sectors. New York state had 351,992 workers in the construction industry in 2007, and 57 were killed in 2007. The rate of fatalities in the construction industry was 16.2 per 100,000 – over six times the state fatality rate for all workers. In New York City, the fatality rate among construction workers was even higher, at18.5 deaths per 100,000.
Fifty-seven of the state’s workplace fatalities occurred in the construction sector. In New York City, new residential construction permits rose from 15,050 units in 2000 to 31,902 units in 2007 , a 112 percent increase, while the official number of construction employees working in the city increased only 6 percent.
“In New York State, and in New York City in particular, though the construction boom seems to be abating, the numbers of fatalities in this sector are still high compared to workers in general, and many employers fail to prioritize safety and contribute further to the dangers,” the report stated. “More vigorous enforcement is needed, along with penalties severe enough to act as practical deterrents.”
The report also raises concern over OSHA’s move to promulgate a new crane standard because it pre-empts localities from enforcing standards stronger than those in the regulation. “For New York City, pre-emption would result in significant risks to workers and the general public since it would prevent the New York City Department of Buildings from licensing crane operators, inspecting work sites and enforcing regulations which are significantly stronger than those required in the proposed OSHA regulations,” the report stated.
The report stressed that to help reduce workplace injuries and fatalities, county and municipal employees, government agencies and unions must work together cooperatively, OSHA’s enforcement budget should be “dramatically increased,” the OSH Act should be amended and more.
“Death and injury in the workplace can be prevented. This report makes it clear that many of OSHA’s problems need to be addressed structurally and that OSHA’s enforcement budget needs to be dramatically increased,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of NYCOSH. “It’s also very clear that OSHA must take immediate steps at defining a targeted strategy to protect non-union and immigrant workers, who continue to be killed on the job in higher numbers every year.”