Workplace injuries are a big concern in New York, especially as the construction boom in New York City has led to more injuries among construction workers. As an increasing number of employees get hurt, efforts are being made to protect vulnerable workers and bring injury rates down. Employers and employees need to be aware of the efforts to fight unsafe conditions on worksites, and employees should also understand how NY workers’ compensation benefits provide for them if an injury happens.
WXII News reported on one recent effort to make New York safer for workers. This effort centers around providing grants to nonprofits that are trying to make a difference in high-risk industries.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced after a Labor Day parade that the state of New York is providing $5 million in grants, which are earmarked to go to organizations focused on helping to improve safety conditions in certain low wage industries.
The nonprofits that will receive grant money not only provide services to companies in higher-risk fields where injuries are more likely, but also target workforce risks in industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers. Immigrants, and especially undocumented immigrants, often do exceptionally dangerous jobs and may not be familiar with the legal resources and recourse available to them if they get hurt on the job.
The industries the nonprofits will be working to improve include landscaping; the hospitality industry; agriculture; construction; and dry-cleaning. Cuomo believes the state grants are both necessary and cost effective, as workplace injuries within New York cost around $10 billion per year when taking into account medical care costs; loss of wages; and the payment of workers’ compensation benefits.
Hopefully, the nonprofits will be successful at using grant money to make a difference and improve conditions. This may be especially important in the field of construction, as building booms within New York City and the NYC metro area, resulting in a significant increase in work injuries.
Politico reported the Department of Buildings in New York City is also making a concerted effort to help improve workplace safety by cracking down on violators. The Department of Buildings has a powerful tool it is using to try to address worksite safety problems. That tool is the stop work order, which requires all work on a job-site to stop immediately until problems identified in an inspection are fixed and fines are paid.
In the first six months of 2016, 4,580 stop-work orders were issued. This is a 23 percent increase from the 3,729 stop work orders that were issued during the first six months of 2015.
Hopefully, between enforcement by the Department of Building and efforts from nonprofits, the risk of employee injuries in NY will have a meaningful impact.