A drop in available site-safety engineers combined with a huge upswing in construction in New York City has led to an increase in the number of laborers dying at construction sites. “Eighteen workers died during the last federal fiscal year. . . That’s up from twelve during the previous 12 months and seven the year before that, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).”
The workers’ deaths were foreseeable and preventable but occurred because proper safety protocols were not in place. Of those killed, nine fell to their deaths while some were crushed by equipment or collapsing trenches. It is not just construction workers who are being imperiled by the lack of safety measures, passers-by and residents of buildings under construction fall victim as well.
In New York there are numerous laws in place which seek to protect construction workers who are scarcely in a position to protect their own safety at job sites. Primary and non-delegable responsibility is placed on the contractors and sub contractors who are the ones profiting from these projects. Part of the issue revolves around the decline in safety inspectors whose job it is to be at the sites to enforce compliance with various safety laws and regulations. With less inspectors available to police job sites, contractors are taking short cuts which cut costs for them but endanger their workers. The preventable death of laborer Carlos Moncayo is a prime example of what happens when safety measures are not followed.
On April 6, 2015 tragedy struck as 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo was buried alive when the trench he was digging collapsed on him. Despite multiple warnings by a site-safety manager, just days before and even minutes before the collapse, the contractor continued to ignore safety protocols putting costs savings over worker safety. “OSHA fined Sky Materials and the general contractor Harco Constructions LLC $142,000 each for multiple safety violations, including two dubbed ‘willful’.”
Figuring out how to convince contractors that non-compliance can cost them more than having a safe work site to start with seems to be at the heart of the problem. Monetary fines are often not a sufficient deterrent to make contractors comply. Though it is unusual, in the case of Mr. Moncayo, two onsite managers were criminally charged with negligence in his death. As more attention is given to the many laborer deaths this year hopefully contractors will begin to recognize that cutting corners when it comes to safety is not a good investment.