By Sally Goldenberg

5:14 a.m. | Mar. 16, 2016

With construction site safety an increasing source of controversy between developers and unions, the Real Estate Board of New York is releasing a study that shows most fatal accidents in New York City take place at job sites for buildings shorter than 10 stories.

The real estate organization studied city Department of Buildings data from 2010 through 2014 and found that 22 of the 28 deadly accidents — 79 percent — happened at one-to-nine-story construction sites. Sixty percent of those fatalities occurred where buildings were shorter than five stories, according to the nine-page study released in advance to POLITICO New York.

In addition, sites below 10 stories are 43 percent more likely to get a safety violation after an accident, REBNY found.

The analysis also shows that the vast majority of construction work took place at the shorter buildings over the five years: 94 percent of all new construction permits were issued for sites with fewer than 10 stories.

The study comes as unions are pushing for a mandated safety training program for sites with more than 10 stories—a push REBNY opposes.

“Improving safety at construction sites is critical as New York City’s continued growth creates new housing and jobs,” REBNY president John Banks said in a prepared statement. “Data, not rhetoric, should guide policy to improve construction safety. Our analysis provides insight as to where attention needs to be focused.”

Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, scoffed at the analysis.

“Not much of a study, but it’s interesting how (it) comes out now, after the fact that we had proposed the safety legislation,” he said in an interview, after reviewing the findings.

Coincidental timing aside, he said, the analysis gives REBNY reason to embrace an even stricter version of the bill LaBarbera is pushing for in the City Council. The training programs he wants to require are generally run by unions, and developers have said the proposal is simply a way to boost union membership.

“We knew the statistics. However, what this study actually does, if you really look at it, it actually supports what we’ve been saying all along: that non-union construction sites are less safe than union sites,” he added, noting that most of the shorter residential projects are not run by union workers while high-rises generally are.

“Obviously REBNY is very concerned about safety in the construction industry,” he said. “I see no reason why they wouldn’t support even a more broad bill.”

The study did not determine whether fatalities are more common on union-run sites — something the city buildings commissioner, Rick Chandler, said he cannot determine.

LaBarbera said most fatal accidents happen at non-union sites, based on information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and news reports of the individual incidents.

At a rally calling for industry changes following an increase in construction accidents last year, Councilman Corey Johnson and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer both embraced LaBarbera’s bill, but it has yet to be introduced in the City Council.

Johnson declined to comment and Brewer’s spokesman did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Read the full report here: