City excludes more than one-third of construction worker deaths in official count

DOB counted 12 construction fatalities in 2015, but the federal government recorded 17

9-19 Ninth Avenue in the Meatpacking District last April (inset: Carlos Moncayo) (credit: New York District Attorney’s Office)
9-19 Ninth Avenue in the Meatpacking District last April (inset: Carlos Moncayo) (credit: New York District Attorney’s Office)

In April of last year, a boom operator died when he was crushed by a crane arm. In May, Air Force veteran Christian Ginesi fell down an elevator shaft to his death at a 46th Street construction site. And in July, Alton Louis died on a Williamsburg worksite after completing a full shift in the midday heat.

But none of those deaths are recorded in the city’s official count, compiled by the Department of Buildings, and some weren’t investigated by the city’s Department of investigations. The city only tracks fatalities that violate the city’s construction code, which is concerned with public safety, not necessarily that of individual construction workers, Crain’s reported.

In each of the cases unrecorded by the city, OSHA issued violations to the employers and fined them thousands of dollars for failing to adhere to safety regulations. But according to the city, workplace accidents are a labor issue, and unless there is a threat to public safety, they don’t fall under the department’s jurisdiction. The city counted 12 deaths (including a passerby killed by falling plywood), but the federal government counted 17

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A rise in construction saw a corresponding rise in construction-related deaths in 2014 and 2015, leading the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, in the wake of the death of Carlos Moncayo at a Harco Construction site, to form a task force to investigate construction deaths.

In Moncayo’s case, a judge found general contractor Harco Construction guilty of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in June. Kenneth Hart, who runs Harco, had his construction license revoked in August after the DOB found 30 safety violations at eight of his construction sites over the previous two years, but it was later reinstated.

In all but one of the cases in which OSHA issued serious violations, the contractors were non-union, according to Crain’s. [Crain’s]Chava Gourarie

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