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Do fewer safety inspections contribute to more construction accidents?

As we've discussed in previous blogs, construction-related injuries and deaths in New York have risen dramatically in recent years. And with the fate of the New York Labor Law in flux, it remains uncertain if conditions will change for construction workers.

Labor laws, however, might be just one factor of this problem. Is it possible that reductions in safety inspections are also contributing to increased construction worker deaths? A recent study examines this correlation.

This study by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH) reports that construction-related fatalities in New York City rose from 17 in 2011 to 25 in 2015. Statewide they increased from 33 to 55. Additionally, injuries including fatalities in the state increased from 128 in 2011 to 435 in 2015.

At the same time, the study found, inspections by the state and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fell consistently each year, from 2,722 in 2011 to 1,966 in 2015. This 27 percent drop is primarily attributed to the reduction of OSHA inspectors in the state.

These inspections can be instrumental in catching potential hazards before serious injury occurs. The NYCOSH examined 2,000 OSHA inspections conducted in 2014. Nearly 70 percent of those visits resulted in safety citations.

In New York City, the most common fatal construction-accident is worker falls. With proper safety precautions in place, it is possible that many of these deaths could have been prevented.

Construction workers deserve a safe work environment. If safety inspections increase and laws improve, safer construction sites could become a reality in the city and across the state.

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