NEW YORK CITY—The New York City Council is expected to vote at its next meeting on Wednesday on a controversial construction safety training bill that was voted out of committee last week.
The training legislation proposed earlier this year in response to rising job site deaths and accidents that have taken place in the city was passed by the City Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee last Wednesday. Last Thursday, two construction workers fell to their deaths in separate accidents at city job sites, according to published reports.
Proponents of the bill (Intro. 1447) say it will enhance worker and jobsite safety in New York City by requiring enhanced training for construction workers. Opponents have charged that the bill favors union workers and also would adversely impact small contracting firms and MWBE companies.
The legislation that passed the City Council’s committee last week has been the subject of significant negotiation between the City Council, the de Blasio administration as well as construction trades organizations and other stakeholders since it was originally heard by the Housing and Buildings Committee on Jan. 18
“The wellbeing of all New Yorkers is tantamount, and legislation to ensure safety on and around the hundreds of construction sites that operate each day in our city has been long overdue,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The bill, if approved, would establish safety training requirements for workers at most construction sites (excluding sites that involve buildings with only 1-3 dwelling units or minor work). The legislation would require construction workers to undergo between 40 hours to 55 hours of safety training. The mandated training hours would be established by the New York City Department of Buildings and will be phased in over time.
Other provisions of the bill would allow workers to fulfill their training requirement by completing an alternative training program, such as an apprenticeship program, but only if the DOB determines that that program is equivalent to, or more extensive than, the standard safety training requirements. It would also allow laborers to continue working while they complete training. After completing 10 hours of initial training, workers will be eligible for temporary cards that will authorize them to work on construction sites while they complete the remainder of the required training.
The Department of Small Business Services will develop a training program to help ensure that all workers have equal access to training resources, particularly workers who may have a harder time having the costs of training covered by their employers, such as day laborers and workers employed by small MWBE contractors. The city has earmarked $4 million to help pay for the training for workers that cannot afford the cost, as well as another $1 million to cover administrative costs of the program.
“It is absolutely essential that construction workers around New York City receive necessary safety training, and we in the Council are committed to making that training more accessible,” said the bill’s prime sponsor Council Member Jumaane Williams after it was voted out of committee.
Council Member Carlos Menchaca added, “I’ve listened to the concerns of all stakeholders impacted by this legislation, including workers with limited access to training who are most often at risk of injury and death. I am confident we have set new training standards that will save lives.”