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Unionization and OSHA visits may reduce construction accidents

Is there a correlation between regulatory enforcement and worker safety? A recent statistic seems to suggest this.

Specifically, a report prepared by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health found that construction-related injuries or fatalities rose from 128 to 435 between 2011 and 2015. During the same period, the number of safety inspections performed by Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials decreased by about 27 percent, from 2,722 to 1,966.

Unfortunately, the decrease in OSHA inspections was not due to better safety compliance. Of the nearly 2,000 inspections performed by OSHA officials in New York in 2014, almost 70 percent ended with safety citations.

Unionization may also play a role in construction site safety. OSHA data indicates that the majority of construction worker fatalities occur at nonunion sites. Around 93 percent of repeat safety offenders are nonunion contractors.

Finally, there is an additional risk to construction workers in New York City: the city skyline. Between 2011 and 2015, 59 percent of construction-related fatalities resulted from falls. Nationwide, that percentage is much lower, around 36 percent.

Although an employee may observe workplace safety violations, he or she may be afraid to come forward against a contractor because of job security concerns. The lack of unionization may also contribute to those fears. Yet from a legal perspective, a construction worker does have employment rights. This is where a lawyer is most needed. Our New York City personal injury law firm understands that laws are intended to protect construction workers. Consult with an attorney to make sure you understand your rights and options. 

Source: Daily News, “NYC construction deaths and injuries rise as inspections decline,” Greg B. Smith, Jan. 18, 2017

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