After a construction worker died in Williamsburg on one of the city's much-touted affordable housing projects last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized the role of human error in construction deaths and pointed to the city's building boom as a cause of the drumbeat of fatalities.
"Part of why you’ve seen a number of instances is just the sheer extent of construction in this city, which is now essentially gotten to the pre-recession level," de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday. "The city is booming with construction."
Asked if the city should better scrutinize safety on publicly-backed projects, the mayor said he wanted to differentiate "between the things that we find that are structurally solvable versus the things that are individual," noting that "sometimes it is just plain human and individual error" that causes construction deaths.
But occupational safety expert Deborah Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project and a former senior Occupational Safety and Health Administration official, said the mayor's comments fail to capture why construction deaths happen.
“Worker injuries are caused by unsafe conditions, not by careless workers,” she said. "If you follow OSHA rules, workers don’t get killed and injured."
Dr. Grace Sembajwe, professor at the City University of New York's School of Public Health and an occupational health expert, said the mayor is wrong to draw a distinction between individual failings and issues that can be addressed systemically.