The New York City council recently implemented new Local Law #196, a requirement that all construction workers and supervisors complete a minimum of 40 hours of occupational safety training. The program, created in response to a wave of recent worksite injuries and fatalities, will be executed in three phases between this year and 2020. This new provision was somewhat surprisingly approved by the Real Estate Board of New York, who initially was quite critical of the proposal. In addition, the measure was supported by the mayor and the Manhattan borough president.
Reason for Initial Real Estate Board Opposition
The Real Estate Board and other opponents felt that it provided an unfair advantage to union workers, who they figured would be exempt because of the current safety training they receive. This union worker training is also paid for by the union, which would place nonunion workers specifically at a disadvantage by having to pay for their own. Others were concerned that the new safety rules would disproportionally hinder minority workers.
The city answered these concerns by allocating $5 million for the training. That was followed by John Banks, leader of the Real Estate Board of New York, to express support for increases in safety at all construction sites for both union and nonunion workers.
Successful Formation of Diverse Task Force
Stakeholders were at odds on various aspects of the new requirement, including required hours, the curriculum, and how the law would potentially hurt smaller minority-owned businesses. The solution was the formation of a task force composed of representations from various factions, like the real estate community, construction unions, housing groups, and the NAACP. Rick Chandler, the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings, said that this task force was successful in addressing the concerns of those with varying interests and will meet regularly for the first few years of the program.
Need to Stop Worker Injuries
A disturbing trend has developed over the last three years where 39 construction workers had been killed while working at local worksites. These were considered to be preventable fatalities and many were the result of employer indifference regarding safety, e.g., inadequate supervision and poor prevention measures for falls. Critics suggested that the rise in deaths was a result of the increase in the volume of construction; however, a New York Times study ultimately disproved that theory.
Training & Penalties
The goal is to institute care standards to reverse the trend of the occupation's status as among the most dangerous. Workers throughout the city will possess a safety training card (SST) that indicates completion of the training agenda. This applies to those working on a project the size of a three-family or larger home. Many union workers will be issued credit for recently completed training hours. The task force is continuing to form the training curriculum. Violations of non-compliance may result in fines up to $25,000.