It may not be news to those in the business, but new numbers back up what IBEW and other union construction members already know: there’s safety in a union.
"New York’s Building Trades Employers Association, which represents more than 1,300 contractors in New York City, recently released new statistics using data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It found that union construction workers in the Big Apple are five times less likely to suffer a fatal accident compared to their nonunion counterparts.
“IBEW members and employers have safety baked into every aspect of the job; it’s par for the course for us,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “It’s always great to see our experiences backed up with solid data.”
“[This study] shows that year in and year out, union construction firms are the safest in New York City. That’s because when you have a skilled and experienced union workforce, the quality of work is better and safety is not just prioritized – it’s part of the culture. These statistics make that clear,” said BTEA CEO Lou Coletti in silive.com.
According to the data, there were 18 fatalities in 2018, with only four on BTEA sites. The union contractors also received 33% fewer violations per project than their nonunion counterparts, and 25% fewer stop work orders.
“The results of this study aren’t surprising at all,” said Local 3 journeyman Robert Holst to silive.com. “While every construction job has inherent dangers, it is the training that union building trades members receive during their apprenticeship that makes the difference in regards to a safe job. … There is no substitute for a union apprenticeship program.”
The findings echo others.
A January 2019 report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that, “workers die as a result of employer’s disregard for workers’ health and safety and [the report] notes the difference between construction fatality numbers on union versus nonunion job sites, proving that unionized construction jobs keep New York’s workers safer.”
The report, titled “Deadly Skyline,” also stated that while industry deaths decreased in New York City, they increased in the state as whole. This was despite a construction boom in the five boroughs.
Dominique Bravo, director of Pathways 2 Apprenticeship, stated in a New York Times op-ed that nonunion contractors make up 90% of the construction companies listed in OSHA’s “Severe Violator Enforcement Program” for New York.
“Union workers are safer because they are better trained and know they will be protected if they refuse to work under dangerous conditions,” Bravo wrote.
Similar studies show the rise of right-to-work laws linked to an increase in worker deaths and that construction firms that employ union workers are more likely to engage in safety best practices and training.
“These studies prove what we already know,” Stephenson said, “but it’s on each of us to make sure we do our part to keep our workplaces the safest in the industry.”