Poor safety enforcement leads to spike in workplace fatalities

Workplace deaths in New York City have soared, largely due to lax safety enforcement, critics say.

Workplace fatalities soared in New York City in 2014, according to the New York Daily News, rising a staggering 22 percent from the year before. The uptick in deaths, which is part of a long-term trend dating back to 2008, is being partly blamed on inadequate enforcement of safety regulations. In particular, construction deaths have risen sharply and account for the largest number of worker deaths in the city. While contractors say the increase is due to the city's building boom, critics say the increasing number of deaths and injuries is far outpacing construction.

Workers' deaths

Recently released figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2014 there were 78 workplace fatalities in New York City, an increase of 22 percent from 2013. The 78 deaths are also the largest number of workplace fatalities the city has seen since 2008, when 90 workers died.

A breakdown of the statistics show that men, workers aged 55 to 64 years, and Hispanics were at the greatest risk of being killed on the job. The leading cause of death was falls, slips, or trips, which took the lives of 20 people in 2014, followed by transportation incidents with 14 deaths.

Construction risks

The most dangerous industry, however, was construction, which accounted for 22 on-the-job deaths in 2014, a significant increase from the 17 such deaths recorded in 2013. Experts say the reason for the increase is that while the city undergoes a building boom, safety inspectors have been stretched thin, making it difficult to enforce current safety regulations. Critics say that some contractors flout safety regulations to such an extent that they are essentially exploiting labor.

Furthermore, while many contractors argue that an increase in accidents simply reflects an increase in construction, the fact is, as the New York Times reports, that the increase in construction-related accidents is far outpacing the increase in construction. In the last fiscal year, for example, total construction accidents soared by 52 percent, while permits for new construction projects only increased by 11 percent and permits for renovations and other work by six percent during that same fiscal year.

Workers' compensation

As construction workers face new and growing risks, they should know that they have rights if they have been hurt in an accident on the job. Contractors and employers have a moral and legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for employees. Any worker who has been injured in an accident, especially if it may have been at least partially caused by poor safety compliance at a job site, should get in touch with a workers' compensation attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help injured workers understand their rights and will be able to assist them in pursuing compensation for their injuries.