This NY Times story can stand for many:
Carlos Moncayo was just 22 when he was crushed to death by thousands of pounds of dirt at a construction site in Manhattan’s meatpacking district. . . .
The city’s Department of Buildings has recorded 84 construction-related fatalities since 2015. Statistics shows that deaths are more likely at nonunion sites, where workers may face pressure to comply with unreasonable demands.
Diana Florence, who served as the lead prosecutor on Mr. Moncayo’s case, said in an interview that many construction injuries and even deaths are not properly investigated from the outset.
But the Moncayo case hinged on a coincidence: A police supervisor who responded to the scene had once worked in construction, and he immediately recognized that the pit that Mr. Moncayo was working in was not reinforced, as it should have been.
“He realized that the trench was basically a ticking time bomb,” Ms. Florence said.
And, ok, I suppse that sort of thing happens, since I have read many news stories about it over the years. During one of the trench safety courses I have taken, the instructors showed photographs of an unsafe trench they said was in the street right in front of the Santa Clara County administration building. But the real battle over safety in the construction business, which rages every day on sites across the country, is employers trying to coerce, bully, persuade, or otherwise get workers to take safety precautions that they don't want to take, because safety is frankly a pain in the ass.
(Remembering my trenching safety courses reminds me of the instructor who would pause about every half hour, stare hard at the class and say, in an intense New Jersey accent, "Cubic yard o' dirt weighs 3,000 pounds!" It worked, I guess, since I've never forgotten it.)
Over the years I have been involved with at least 20 incidents involving workers who refused to wear hard hats; I have never seen a case where a worker wanted a hardhat but wasn't provided with one. Ok, that's a simple, cheap matter compared to providing shoring for a trench. But it is the pattern I have seen across my career. There was once a fairly high level investigation of an incident I witnessed, in which a crane dropped a huge steel I-beam within 20 feet of a couple of workers. Turned out the crew wasn't attaching the secondary safety line because it was tedious and seemed unnecessary.
Safety requires constantly doing tedious things that seem unnecessary. It requires wearing uncomfortable clothes, even when it's 98 degrees. It requires filling out forms and keeping logs. It requires stopping and waiting for inspections or equipment – and a lot of construction guys are ADHD types for whom stopping and waiting is the most painful thing. And it has to be said that like all bureaucracies, the safety bureaucracy has created its own layer of annoying, likely unhelpful silliness. (One example I see regularly is that a safety plan will be promulgated for an entire project that is appropriate for a construction site in full swing, but doesn't seem relevant for the archaeologists who are on site while it is still woods, before the first machine has showed up.)
Sure, when a company orders people into unsafe situations, they should be penalized for that. But the notion that safety is something workers want, that business is perfidiously denying to them, is just flat out wrong. The greatest danger to workers, especially young, male workers, is themselves.