NYC Passes Worker Safety Training Following Uptick in Deaths

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Thousands of construction workers in New York City will have to take 40 to 55 hours of safety training under a bill passed by the City Council, and each worker who doesn’t could cost their employers up to $25,000 in fines.

While the council debated the bill for eight months, passage came a week after two workers on two different job sites fell to their deaths Sept. 21. Eight construction workers have died so far in 2017, according to the city’s Department of Buildings statistics.

“This vote means that New York City hard hats will get the safety training they need,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a Sept. 27 statement.

The city already has one of the toughest standards for safety training, requiring construction workers to pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s 10-hour construction safety course. In most states and cities, the course is optional. Contractors, permit holders and building site owners employing workers that lack the mandatory training could be fined up to $25,000 for each worker who didn’t take the course.

The bill, expected to be signed soon by de Blasio, is set to take effect March 1, 2018. The deadline for full compliance is yet to be determined, but can’t be later than Sept. 1, 2020, according to the bill (Intro 1447-C).

Capacity, Cost

John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said in a Sept. 27 statement he doubts there are enough city-approved trainers to reach an estimated 120,000 non-union construction workers who need the class.

And there is the cost of training. “[H]ow will workers who are not affiliated with a union or contractor—many of whom are minorities or immigrants—pay for the training to keep their jobs?” Banks asked.

To cover some training costs for workers who can’t afford to pay on their own, the bill budgets about $5 million annually in tax dollar support.

What to Teach?

The deadline isn’t the only provision still to be settled. Also unknown is the specific content of the course that likely will include OSHA curriculum from the 10-hour construction safety course.

A task force of 15 representatives of workers, unions, and construction companies will be appointed by the mayor or speaker of the City Council. The task force must recommend to the city building commissioner specific topics classes will cover and the number of instruction hours by March 1, 2018.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at brolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

The bill and background information is available at http://src.bna.com/sWP

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