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Construction workers can speak up about unsafe working conditions

As we've mentioned often in this blog, construction accident fatalities have become an epidemic in New York City and throughout the state. It seems every week there is at least one tragic construction worker death - that could have been prevented with proper safety precautions in place.

In many ways, New York contractors, as well public officials and lawmakers, have failed at keeping workers safe on the job site. Measures to improve construction worker safety, such as improvements to the Scaffolding Law and introduction of the Construction Safety Act, are a good start, but won't work alone. Construction companies need to comply with new laws - and workers need to report on them when they don't.

Workers are encouraged to report situations of unsafe working conditions that violate federal and state safety regulations. New York whistleblower laws protect public and private employees from any employer retaliation after "making a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or testifying at a proceeding concerning a violation of New York's labor laws (including the state's occupational safety and health laws)." Retaliation can include termination of employment, demotions, suspension or any discrimination against the employee.

New York employers that violate whistleblower laws are subject to civil action, as well as criminal penalties. This is in addition to any personal injury or wrongful death claims that can be filed against them for workplace accidents.

Workplace violations should first be reported to your employer. If no steps are taken to remedy the problem, you can file a safety and health complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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