NYC council unanimously approves legislation mandating construction safety training

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New York City Council has unanimously approved legislation establishing construction safety training requirements and programming, after eight months of controversy and debate.

Int 1447, introduced in January in response to the high number of construction site deaths in the city, has been changed twice to satisfy stakeholders (including the Real Estate Board of New York (RENBY), and minority and non-union contractors), but in the end the bill’s proponents — especially organized labor — got most of what they were seeking.

The legislation approved on Sept. 27 is intended to overcome the number of fatalities and injuries in the city’s construction sector, upwards of 40 since 2014, according to The New York Times.

The revised bill includes $5 million to help fund training for laborers and others who might not have the financial resources to complete the mandated training.

Fines of up to $25,000 will be levied on sites using untrained workers.

Workers workers can stay on the job until December 2018 if they have complete a basic requirement for 10 hours of training March. Ultimately, however, they will need to complete between 40 and 55 hours of instruction. Building permits  can be withheld or denied renewal if the employer cannot prove all workers for the project have the required training.

Also included in the legislation, which went into effect immediately:

  • Workers must complete between 40 to 55 hours of safety training. The Department of Buildings (DOB) will control the administration of the hours.
  • Workers can satisfy their training requirement with completion of an alternative training program, but only if DOB allows it after comparing it to the bill’s established training program.

“Today is a historic moment in the progressive fight for a safer workplace,” Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said in a press release.

Organized labour originally had sought mandatory apprenticeships as a requirement to overcome the safety issues — but opponents said this would restrict opportunities, especially for minority and disadvantaged groups.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “This vote means that New York City hard hats will get the safety training they need for one of our city’s most dangerous jobs, and that will help get them home to their families at night and keep construction sites safe for everyone.”

However, RENBY president John Banks said: “The legislation fails to address our concerns over how tens of thousands of workers will access safety training, how they will pay for it, what steps are being taken to curb fraud, and why all workers are not subject to the bill’s safety training requirements,” said Real Estate Board of New York president John Banks, warning the measure “will result in many fewer construction job opportunities for New Yorkers.”

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