Header Image Mobile Header Image



New Report Exposes "Fatal Inequality" for Construction Workers

A new report by the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), entitled “Fatal Inequality," shows that Latino and other workers of color account for 74% of fatalities from accidents in the New York construction industry even though they represent only 34% of the workforce. Our report was released in collaboration with Make the Road New York.

Our results, compiled from investigations by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), show that 88% of fatal falls in Queens and 87% in Brooklyn involved Latinos and/or immigrants.

Fatal Inequality,” found that smaller construction companies often have particularly unsafe workplaces, as they tend to be non-union and lack necessary training, proper equipment, and respect for workers’ reports about unsafe conditions. The vast majority, 86%, of Latino or immigrant workers' fatalities from a fall were at sites run by nonunion employers, where workers are often reluctant to report safety violations out of fear of retaliation from contractors.

The findings illustrate that the primary protection for construction workers’ safety, OSHA, is ineffective. Understaffed because of inadequate funding, OSHA is unable to inspect a significant number of construction sites. And, when OSHA does inspect a construction site, the monetary penalties they impose for violations are so small that employers can see them as just an incidental cost of doing business.

Supplemental worker protections are offered by the Scaffold Law in New York State, which requires owners and contractors to provide appropriate and necessary equipment and holds owners and contractors fully liable if their failure to follow the law causes a worker to be injured or killed. Currently, construction and insurance companies are pushing legislation to weaken the Scaffold Law by shifting the responsibility of workplace safety from owners and contractors to the workers. The change would have a dramatic, detrimental impact on worker safety and a disproportionate impact on construction workers of color. The report calls on Governor Cuomo and NYS legislature to resist any attempts to weaken the Scaffold Law.

To download the full report and learn more about Fatal Inequality, click here.