According to the New York Times, there were 10 construction fatalities from July 2014 to July 2015. That is a nearly 50 percent jump in deaths from previous years, and the problems do not stop there. In that same fiscal year, New York City saw a 53 percent increase in the number of construction workers injured from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2015. The boom in New York City construction has created a safety issue, but are these construction accidents all related to the rise in the amount of construction going on in New York City?
Councilman Lancman’s Proposed Legislation
From 2014 to 2015, there has been an 11 percent increase in the number of building permits issued for new building projects. The fact that an 11 percent increase in building permits has brought a 53 percent increase in accidents has caused city councilman Rory Lancman to take action he hopes will reduce the number of accidents to almost zero.
According to Lancman’s own statement, one of the issues that creates violations in safety regulations is the inability of the NYC Department of Buildings to effectively communicate with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That is why he created a piece of legislation that would force the two organizations to talk and share information efficiently. The hope is that keeping OSHA up to date on all potential issues will give the federal agency the information it needs to act quickly and save lives.
More Than Just A Communication Issue
The Queens Tribune stated that the issue with construction accidents and deaths in New York City is deeper than just a lack of bureaucratic communication. The majority of construction deaths occur on non-union jobs and involve undocumented workers. Non-union companies are cutting corners by paying workers off the books, and denying workers the equipment they need to work safely.
Unions give their workers adequate safety training, and unions protect workers who raise concerns about unsafe working conditions. But when undocumented workers try to raise concerns about non-union jobs, those workers are immediately replaced with someone who could be lining themselves up to become another devastating statistic.
The Solution Needs To Be More Comprehensive
Councilman Lancman is encouraging construction job owners in New York City to support union companies and create safer work places by utilizing union labor. But as long as non-union jobs are allowed to exist, the problem of safety will continue to be a forefront issue. When undocumented workers are forced to take on dangerous tasks, the possibility that those workers will get involved in an accident increases.
One of the issues that Lancman’s legislation does not address is the lack of manpower in the Department of Buildings and the local OSHA office. New York City officials have vowed to hire more inspectors to help protect workers, but the process of hiring and training new inspectors is a slow one. When the component parts are not in place to support a piece of legislation, then that legislation has very little chance of being successful. Despite
Lancman’s efforts, the problems may persist until real change is created.
NYC Needs To Take Heed Of The Safety Problems
When a construction worker does their job, they do not expect to put their life at risk. Companies that cut corners
either to save money or meet a construction deadline are putting their workers in harm’s way, and there is very little that is done about it.
The Department of Buildings does hand out fines, but many companies ignore those fines and repeat their illegal acts over and over again. Until New York City decides to address all of the core reasons that construction accidents are skyrocketing, the construction boom only represents more problems for workers all over the city.