Thousands of construction workers held a rally in New York City to demand increased safety measures on construction sites. Eighteen workers died during the during the last fiscal year October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015 at construction sites in New York City. Nine workers fell to their death. Several were crushed to death by improperly braced walls. Others were killed by falling construction materials. The increase in fatal accidents is an upward trend. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, construction related deaths have increased in each of the past three years from seven in 2103 to twelve in 2104 to eighteen in 2015. The increase in workers fatalities at city job sites comes as the number of building permits has increased 18% while the number safety inspectors has dropped 6%.
The workers gathered alongside public officials, clergy member, safety advocates and community members to honor members of their community who were killed on worksites. The rally marked International Workers Memorial Day.
Advocates called for enforcement of existing safety regulations on construction sites and to hold contractors accountable. The majority of the recent deaths involve non-union workers. Critics claim that workers at non-union job sites are often subject to less safety oversight and protection creating a more dangerous working environment.
The increase in construction fatalities comes at time when the building and insurance industry is lobbying the New York State legislature to repeal workers safety laws. Numerous bills have been sponsored to reform Labor Law 240(1) commonly known as the "Scaffolding Law," and shift the burden of responsibility for work site safety away from contractors to fall on workers. The current law places a non-delegable duty on owners and contractors to provide workers with proper and sufficient safety devices such as ladders, scaffolds, safety harnesses and similar protective equipment.