Construction Worker Safety Amid the Los Angeles Building Boom
Introduction to Construction Worker:
It’s no secret that the real estate boom in Southern California and specifically Los Angeles shows no sign of abating. A look at Downtown Los Angeles reveals cranes, scaffolding, and construction workers everywhere. Neither COVID, inflation nor the growth of remote work seems to have put a dent in the number of commercial and residential buildings going up in the City of Angels. Yet often overlooked in this building frenzy the human cost of unbridled growth: construction worker injuries and deaths.
The steady climb in the number of construction worker fatalities over a seven-year period has been a glaring example of this. As noted by The Dominguez Firm, California reported 84 construction worker fatalities in 2019; the highest number recorded over the previous six years. This increase has occurred despite overall improvements in training, safety equipment and technology. Another telling statistic is that while construction workers make up only 6% of the labor force nationally; they account for about 20% of worker deaths.
Los Angeles will always be a magnet for development.
The city’s status as a cultural, economic and sports hub as well as its importance as a tourist destination have made it irresistible to legions of visitors and newcomers alike. All of this plus the area’s ideal year-round weather mean there will always be a market for new construction. It also means construction worker safety will need to be improved even further to stop this disturbing rise in injuries and fatalities.
Let’s not forget that at the height of the COVID lockdowns, construction workers were declared essential workers. They continued working under guidelines from the city of Los Angeles for construction sites. One of those sites SoFi Stadium which needed to complete in time to host the Super Bowl. While one could argue the Super Bowl provides a major economic boon to the host city; what about the argument that human lives are more important than a building designed for pure recreation?
Developers and construction workers must find a balance between commerce and worker safety. Construction, especially residential construction, tends to pay poorly. A Cal State Berkeley study found almost 50% of construction workers’ families were in some sort of assistance program. That compares to about 25% of all family members of workers in the state. Stronger enforcement of safety regulations is one step but paying a living wage would also go a long way to improving working conditions for these hard-working men and women.