WESTERN NEW YORK -- The Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health released a study Monday, after analyzing visits to construction sites made by OSHA over a period of a year. The report says in 2014, inspectors found a violation in 83 percent of construction inspections in a 10-county area, including Buffalo and Rochester.
Of those violations, 82 percent were classified as "serious."
"What we hope for the report is that construction companies and construction business owners take notice and improve safety for their workers, make sure that they're trained properly and that they're provided with the proper equipment to do their jobs safely," said WNYCOSH Worker Center Project Director Liz Smith.
One of the report's recommendations to lower the rate of safety violations is for OSHA to dole out higher penalties for offenders. The average penalty for inspections with at least one fine was $1,963. WNYCOSH says that's not enough to deter construction employers from taking safety shortcuts.
"When a business violates an OSHA standard or puts a worker in danger, that they're actually getting a fine that makes a difference, not just a slap on the wrist," Smith said.
WNYCOSH is also pushing for the state to maintain legislation, like the Scaffold Safety Law, that offers workers protection.
"The Scaffold Safety Law says that property owners and general contractors who control the worksite and are in the best position to oversee safety are responsible for providing protections for their workers,” said WNY Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz. “This isn't that complicated. If they fail to do so and as a result, someone is killed or injured, the Scaffold Safety Law holds them responsible, and we think this is correct and the proper way."
In order to get a better measure of safety on job sites, the group also wants more OSHA inspections. The Buffalo Area Office conducted about 300 construction inspections in 2014, while nearly 2,000 home construction permits were issued.
WNYCOSH says they hope Congress allocates more funding to OSHA in order for them to review a higher percentage of construction projects.
"We're not saying we're unhappy that there's a construction boom in our region. We think it's a wonderful thing. It's gotta be safe, we don't want people getting killed, we don't want people getting hurt, and we want to make sure the work is done properly," Lipsitz said.
We reached out to OSHA for comment on the report. They did not respond.