NYCOSH Calls for New Enforcement Strategies, Apprenticeship Programs for Construction Safety

The New York City Council's housing committee will consider a package of legislation Jan. 31, after NYCOSH called for legislation including an increase in training for construction workers and mandatory apprenticeship programs on large construction sites.

Coming on the heels of last week's "Deadly Skyline" report on construction deaths in New York state, a clarion call from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health and allies for stepped-up safety enforcement at construction sites in the state, the New York City Council's Committee on Housing and Buildings is scheduled to consider a package of legislation Jan. 31. Included are local laws to require anemometers on cranes, revise the penalties for violations of site safety provisions in the construction codes, and to require task-specific safety meetings for workers at all construction sites.

NYCOSH held a news conference Jan. 18 with members from Greater New York LECET, the Building and Construction Trades Council, City Council members, and community organizations to release the report, which indicated employers routinely violate legal regulations with impunity.

"We need to take action now to end the crisis of rising construction fatalities in New York State. These deaths are almost always preventable and occur on non-union job sites 80 percent of the time. Latino workers compose the majority of fall fatalities — 57 percent in 2015 — and there is a strong correlation between employers who steal workers’ wages and who force workers to work under unsafe conditions,” said Charlene Obernauer, executive director of NYCOSH.

Releasing it the same day a package of legislation was introduced by the New York City Council, NYCOSH called for legislation including an increase in training for construction workers and mandatory apprenticeship programs on large construction sites.

"I was working in the non-union construction industry before Laborers Local 79 recruited me. Laborers' rigorous apprenticeship program immediately provided me with training at no cost for my OSHA 10 card and other certifications, along with classes on how to avoid injuries and how to quickly assess if the job site is safe. The combination of classroom and hands-on training is the key to not only becoming a skilled trades person, but it also ensures we work safe in one of the most dangerous industries out there," said Prentice Miller of Brooklyn, who spoke at the event on the need for effective apprenticeship programs.

"The 'Deadly Skyline' report illustrates yet again what we know to be true: Preventable construction fatalities are on the rise in New York City, and the only way to end this epidemic is with training and safety requirements for all workers," said Patrick Purcell, executive director of the Greater New York Laborer-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust. "Thankfully the wait is now over and meaningful construction safety legislation will be introduced in the City Council today that will ensure stringent safety and training standards. I want to thank NYCOSH for continuing to shine a light on the construction industry and how we can work together to protect all construction workers."

"NYCOSH's 'Deadly Skyline' report further exposes the crisis and epidemic afflicting construction sites across New York City. New data shows an astounding increase in worker fatalities in New York State and New York City, as well as safety violations at 90 percent of construction fatality sites. The new legislation introduced by the City Council will go a long way towards creating higher standards in the industry and prevent more needless deaths of our brothers and sisters," said Gary LaBarbera, president of the 100,000-member Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

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