Employers are legally required to maintain a safe working environment for their employees.  The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created by Congress to set and enforce standards and provide training, outreach, education, and assistance to ensure safe and healthful working conditions.  Unfortunately, in 2020, as OSHA inspections hit a historic low, construction deaths in New York rose 9%. 

Since 2015, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) has been tracking construction fatality rates and statistics.  NYCOSH has reported at least 74 construction related deaths since 2015, with 86% involving non-union workers and at least 54% involving Latino workers. 

In response to the efforts of NYCOSH and others to draw attention to this issue, the New York State Legislature passed Carlos’ Law.  The law would increase the maximum monetary penalty against employers for crimes involving the death of a worker from $10,000 to $300,000 for a misdemeanor and $500,000 for a felony – in addition to any fines issued by OSHA.  The Manhattan District Attorney has praised the passage of this bill as a “meaningful deterrence.”  The bill is now on Governor Hochul’s desk, awaiting her signature. 

If signed into law, Carlos’ Law will be an important tool in the campaign to improve workplace safety and to make sure that construction employers remain focused on their obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees.