In New York City, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is taking new steps to combat the rise in construction fatalities, where 20 employees have died in construction-related accidents since January 2008.

OSHA brought a dozen additional inspectors into the city to conduct proactive inspections of high-rise construction sites, cranes and other places where fatalities and serious accidents occurred. Additionally, ongoing inspections continue under existing local emphasis programs or as a result of complaints, referrals or accidents.

OSHA will review its findings to gauge the impact of these additional inspections and determine other steps necessary to address this trend.

“There is no one—among regulators, employers, employees, unions and trade associations—who will accept these lost lives as the byproduct of work in a dangerous industry,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting regional administrator in New York. “We must all commit to maintaining safety as the number one job priority each and every day.”

“The number and frequency of construction--related deaths and accidents in the city, and their associated human cost, is unacceptable,” said Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s area director in Manhattan. “We’re using every available resource and tool—enforcement, outreach, education, persuasion, even peer pressure—to better identify and proactively eliminate hazards and to compel employers and employees to do likewise.”

In addition to enforcement activities, OSHA is pursuing other measures to drive home the importance of construction safety to employers, employees and the construction industry.

Since May, OSHA has been sending copies of violation citations issued to employers on city construction sites to the employers’ insurance or workers’ compensation carriers, and to construction project owners and developers, in order to raise awareness of occupational hazards found on city job sites. Citations involving training violations at union sites will be sent to the unions representing the workers and to their training funds.

OSHA plans to continue its ongoing alliance with the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), under which OSHA and DOB cross-train their inspectors and managers on each agency’s construction safety standards, regulations and procedures, with a focus on the most common construction hazards likely to harm employees. OSHA also plans to hold outreach meetings with unions and the construction industry to garner their feedback on construction safety issues and elicit their support in reporting hazards and encouraging compliance with safety standards.