NYC construction deaths drop to lowest in nearly a decade

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Dive Brief:

  • New York City’s Department of Buildings recorded the lowest number of construction-related fatalities last year in almost a decade, according to a new report. Seven construction workers died on the job in 2023, four fewer than the year prior.
  • Despite the drop in fatalities, construction injuries increased for the third consecutive year. The DOB recorded 692 injuries, a 25% jump from 2022, the second highest amount of total injuries since 2015.
  • Falls remained the leading cause of injury and death in construction in the city, as it is nationwide, according to the report, but the number of workers who died from falls, along with all major causes — falling material, structural collapse and mechanical incidents — dropped considerably from previous years.

Dive Insight:

Although injuries are on the rise, the DOB said fewer incident investigations required enforcement measures due to unsafe or illegal conditions by employers in 2023. When all safeguards are in place, those injuries are deemed to be an error on the worker’s part. 

“Our team at DOB has been taking a close look at these injuries, to get a better understanding of where they are occurring, and why they are happening,” said DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo, in a statement shared with Construction Dive. “This dichotomy between less fatalities and more injuries underscores the complexity of the task before us to help foster a culture of safety in the industry we regulate.”

The agency issued 18.4% fewer Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings violations year over year and handed out 32.7% fewer stop work orders from last year— counting the lowest number of each administrative action since at least 2020.

In addition, the report said construction activity has remained consistent with previous years, and initial permits for new building projects increased 28%. 

“Collectively, we should be proud of the collaborative work done in 2023 to drive down building construction-related fatalities, but there is still so much work to do because even one death is too many,” Oddo said in the release.

The report coincides with Construction Safety Week, taking place from May 6 to May 10. On Wednesday, OSHA will host a national stand down to address fall protection.

In addition to highlighting the data around safety for the year, the report details the occasions where workers died, and includes information on near misses, such as a crane fire in Manhattan last July that injured 12 people.

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