Fatal work injuries in New York City rose 39 percent to 78 deaths in 2014, as the nationwide figure inched up by only 2 percent, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.
A spike in the number of suicides and homicides, a total of 23 deaths, contributed to the overall increase. The number of suicides at the workplace doubled to 12, and homicides were up 64 percent to 11 deaths.
Workplace violence was the leading cause for the city’s workplace fatalities, accouting for 32 percent of all deaths. Nationally, workplace violence accounted for only 16 percent of all deaths.
Typically, the construction, manufacturing, and retail industries have had the most number of fatalities. Construction industry alone made up 28 percent of all fatalities in the city last year.
Transportation incidents caused the most number of deaths nationally, or 40 percent of all fatalities but only 18 percent of those in New York City.
Twenty-one out of 23 workplace violence deaths took place in private sector. A state law mandates public employees to provide training and come up with prevention plans against workplace violence, but private employees are exempt.
Requiring the private sector to do the same “could be one of the ways to look at the risks and prevent them,” according to Nadia Marin-Molina, a specialist at New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, an advocacy group.
“Workers don’t know what their rights are. Employers are responsible for providing safe workplaces,” Marin-Molina said.
Construction industry fatalities also rose. Building in the city has surged, especially last year. The number of new residential building permits tripled to 12,093 units as of this October, compared with 4,612 units during the same period last year and 3,399 in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“A record construction market brings with it a wide pool of industry experience, and not every project and not contractor brings best practices to the table,” said Denise Richardson, the executive director of the General Contractors Association.
Citywide, 22 construction workers died on site last year, a 29 percent increase and the highest tally since 2012.
“Construction companies are hired to do a lot of jobs in the city, even with city funding, and we have seen them directly not provide basic construction equipment, and not train workers in health and safety,” said Ligia Guallpa, executive director for Workers Justice Project, an advocacy group for day laborers.
As a response to rising fatalities, the city’s Department of Building said it plans to hire 100 additional inspectors to monitor construction sites.
The city’s Buildings Department’s “crackdown on bad actors is a direct response to recent increases in worker injuries,” said Rick Chandler, its commissioner.