NEW YORK, NY — This month, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.” In the report, it showed that the number of deaths on construction sites in the state, especially in New York City, has risen significantly. Ronald J. Katter, of The Katter Law Firm, says that understaffing at the NYC Building Department and fewer inspections of construction sites by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may have contributed to the increase in these fatalities.
After three years of declines, the number of fatalities on construction sites in The Empire State increased by 49% in 2021 to 61 from 41 in 2020, according to data from the NYCOSH report. That is the highest number of deaths reported since 2016, when 71 workers were killed on construction sites. In New York City, 20 workers died in 2021 — a 54% increase over the previous year’s figure of 13.
NYCOSH also noted that the New York City Department of Buildings (NYC DOB) is understaffed, citing an article from The New York Times which stated that there is a 25% vacancy rate within the agency. In addition, the city’s proposed 2023 budget for the city will include an 8% cut in funding for NYC DOB. In addition, OSHA has conducted fewer inspections, despite receiving a bump in funding in 2022 to approximately $612 million, compared to $591.8 million in 2021. Only 2,568 inspections were performed in 2021, which is slightly higher than 2020’s figure of 2,080, but far off the more than 4,000 inspections in 2019, a year before the pandemic hit.
“The fact that there aren’t enough people to operate the city’s Department of Buildings, combined with OSHA’s lack of oversight of construction sites within the state and city over the past few years, may have resulted in an increase in these on-the-job fatalities,” Mr. Katter says. “Had these problems been remedied earlier, there probably would have been fewer deaths.”