Due to a spike in construction site deaths experienced in New York, Mayor de Blasio recently signed a much-debated bill that requires construction workers to receive at least 40 hours of safety training. Supporters of the bill find it necessary as construction accidents and deaths are on the rise.
“‘It’s just not acceptable to lose a life when we could save that life. It’s heartbreaking, it’s painful, it leaves a horrible reality for a family left behind,” de Blasio said at a signing ceremony in the rotunda at City Hall. ‘And too often these work sites were not managed the way they should have been – bluntly, in the name of greed.'” Two opposing forces are have been in extreme debate over the bill, however. Construction unions have supported the bill. The real estate industry and groups that represent open-shop contractors are opposed to it, though, claiming the bill will be expensive and has an impractical timeline. They also claim this bill would leave out African Americans and Hispanics in the construction field since they are “less likely to be unionized”.
A sponsor of the bill, Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) said that the city would pay around $5 million for training and aiding small companies, minority and women-owned firms in meeting the requirements. “It wasn’t meant to make anyone – to cut anyone out of the construction field,” remarked Williams. “It was to make sure that everyone that was here was safe.”
On the other side, President of the Real Estate Board, John Banks, doesn’t believe their concerns have been answered in the final bill. He’s still unsure of “how tens of thousands of workers will access safety training, how they will pay for it, what steps are being taken to curb fraudulent safety cards, and why all workers are not subject to the bill’s safety training requirements.”
The bill initially called for construction workers to go through apprenticeships, but critics argued this was unfair because they are often run by unions. Now, the bill requires 40 hours of safety training, but will waive the requirement for construction workers who’ve been in apprenticeships that are deemed extensive enough to resemble their safety training programs.
A variety of topics would be made part of the training, such as fall protection, demolition and excavation – industry safety concerns that have reached a national level. Depending on whether concerns over this new bill are appropriately addressed, we think this is a prudent move. Construction jobs have the highest rates of work-related injuries, and something must be done to change that. But we do wonder if this increase in safety training will be enough. Do you have a family member who works in construction? What do you think?