New York construction sites are about to get much safer—if Governor Kathy Hochul signs a bill passed by the state legislature last month. Known as “Carlos’ Law,” Senate Bill S621Bwould “substantially” raise the fines that can be levied on companies convicted of crimes that led to workplace deaths or injuries. According to a recent report by the New York Times, Governor Hochul has yet to sign the bill even though it passed last month, with her office stating “only that she was reviewing it.”
As the Times notes, Carlos’ Law is named for Carlos Moncayo, a construction worked who died at 22 when he was “crushed to death by thousands of pounds of dirt at a construction site in Manhattan’s meatpacking district.” The general contractor operating the site, Harco Construction, was convicted of “manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless and endangerment.” However, because of state limits on the amount of fines that can be imposed in circumstances, Harco was sentenced to pay a penalty of $10,000.
Should Governor Hochul sign the bill, safety advocates argue, it will “deter contractors from cutting corners on safety,” as in the Moncayo incident, in which the victim was working in a pit that had not been reinforced. The prosecutor in that case told the Times that “many construction injuries and even deaths are not properly investigated from the outset.” In New York City alone, per Department of Buildings statistics cited by the Times, there have been 84 worksite deaths since 2015, with fatalities more commonly occurring “at nonunion sites, where workers may face pressure to comply with unreasonable demands.” Indeed, Moncaya himself was a nonunion worker.
Initially introduced several years ago, Carlos’ Law did not pass until the most recent legislative session, reportedly thanks to a push by “an alliance of construction laborers’ unions” that helped make changes to various provisions. The final version “allows the courts to decide restitution without a cap and raises minimum fines to $500,000 for felonies and $300,000 for misdemeanors in cases involving injuries or deaths,” per the Times. Governor Hochul reportedly has until the end of this year to sign it.
More information on Carlos’ Law, which will impose harsher penalties on companies convicted of crimes that resulted in construction site injuries or deaths, is available via the New York Times.