Proposed safety bill drives divisions in construction

If you are a New York City construction worker, both your livelihood and your life depend on the implementation of effective on-the-job safety policies.

As construction work is second only to mining for the most injuries and deaths of its workers, it seems like it would be hard to argue against having only properly trained workers who are well-versed in safety matters on the web of construction sites all around the city.

Proposed safety training bill creates rifts

The New York City Council drafted Bill 1447-A, which is also known as the "apprenticeship mandate." As part of the comprehensive Construction Safety Act, it would mandate that all construction workers complete no fewer than 59 safety training hours.

Additionally, the bill proposes the creation of a task force comprised of 14 industry insiders who will ensure that the new safety rules are implemented on New York City construction sites.

The lines were quickly drawn, with open-shop construction advocates on one side, decrying the additional training requirements and trade union members on the other, championing what they see as an investment by the construction industry in the workers' safety.

Some see it as burdensome

The New York Construction Alliance's (NYCA) president claims that if the bill is brought to a vote, it will be harder for newcomers to get a start in the industry. He, and other construction managers, prefer to subcontract labor on construction jobs whether or not they are union members.

The NYCA president cited the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) federal standard of only 10 hours of safety training. With the new proposal increasing the training times almost six-fold, he sees it as a punitive measure directed at shops that hire non-union workers.

He also wants the bill to be reviewed by the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office (IBO) prior to any votes. That way, an assessment would indicate whether or not jobs would be adversely affected.

He said that the legislative proposal "disincentivize[s] men and women seeking to work in the industry."

At what price of safety?

The current president of the Greater New York Building and Construction Trades Council represents over 100,000 unionized construction laborers. He emphatically denounced an IBO review, citing it as "kick[ing] the can down the road."

The labor president also addressed the approximately three dozen workers who died on New York City construction sites in the past two years. In a prepared speech, he said, "To those calling for an IBO study . . . on how Intro. 1447 will affect construction jobs in the industry, I say we don't need any more studies --we need action."

The Building Trades Employers' Association's chief executive officer and president took the position that there should be additional safety training in conjunction with the 10 hours required by OSHA.

Compromise may be likely outcome

The future of the proposed law remains murky, but it may result in an uptick in training hours that still falls short of the 59-hour goal.

However, no matter the final outcome, accidents will continue to occur on New York City construction sites. If you get hurt by falling debris or suffer other injuries due to another person's or entity's negligence, explore your legal rights to compensation under the law.

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