ALBANY, N.Y. — Construction companies and insurance trade associations claim that laws such as the Scaffold Safety Law are a detriment to safe working environments for construction workers. The statistics belie that theory. According to data obtained by the Gotham Gazette, a assembled by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health suggests that the more stringent regulations imposed on construction sites in New York City help keep workers safe while worker deaths and injuries are on the rise in the remainder of the state. The data proves that more stringent safety regulations can protect construction workers from workplace injury or death.
The numbers tell the story. In New York City, where construction projects are rampant, construction workers are safer working in the City than anywhere else in the state. Over the past five years, construction deaths decreased by 23 percent in NYC, while deaths increased statewide by 39 percent. The enforcement of strict regulations may explain the difference. While federal funding for OSHA has declined, the Manhattan District Attorneys’ Office, for example, has taken on a caseload and established a specialized unit designated to prosecute general contractors who cut corners and endanger workers. NYC regulators also make training and certification mandatory for construction workers.
Legislators can do more to protect construction workers who are not employed within New York City. One method of protecting construction workers statewide is to maintain the Scaffold Safety Law. It specifically allows injured employees or the families of deceased construction workers to hold contractors legally responsible for injuries. The law also requires contractors to maintain construction workers’ access to safety equipment. Furthermore, the state could prosecute more serial offenders of construction laws for safety violations and require statewide safety certification. Moreover, advocates argue that increasing fines and requiring construction companies to register with a public database that records workplace deaths and injuries will increase transparency and ultimately make the construction industry safer.
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