Photo by Stephen Rush/ Flickr

City Council approves controversial construction safety bill

The New York City Council has unanimously approved a bill that would mandate at least 40 hours of training for construction workers across the city.

Photo by Stephen Rush/ Flickr

Photo by Stephen Rush/ Flickr

Intro. 1447, which was crafted as a reaction to a spate of construction worker deaths, was passed with a vote of 42-0. The final version of the bill includes a provision that require 40-55 hours of safety training for workers. It also allows  workers to fulfill training requirements through an apprenticeship program.

In a speech before the vote, Councilmember Jumaane Williams, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that the legislation “addressed all the issues” brought up by both union and non-union workers. He also strongly criticized the Real Estate Board of New York, which was pushing for the bill’s demise. Williams called the organization “disreputable” and “abhorrent.”

The passage of the bill was applauded by both the union lobby and the de Blasio administration.

“This vote means that New York City hard hats will get the safety training they need for one of our city’s most dangerous jobs, and that will help get them home to their families at night and keep construction sites safe for everyone. My administration has worked closely with the City Council on this legislation, and together we are committed to building programs that ensure all workers – including day laborers and employees of small and MWBE construction firms – can access the training they need,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Today is a historic moment in the progressive fight for a safer workplace. Intro 1447 will be a significant step in the right direction for improving worker safety and standardizing rigorous training in New York City. I want to thank the New York City Council for taking up this important issue and getting the job done with a unanimous vote on behalf of all the hard working construction workers of New York City,” added Building and Construction Trades President Gary LaBarbera, one of the most vocal supporters of the bill.

Before the vote, REBNY said that the bill failed to address key concerns. “The first concern is simple: does New York City have the adequate capacity to train up to 120,000 non-union construction workers? The answer to this question is just a simple — no,” REBNY President John Banks said in his weekly REBNY Watch column.

“Many of the up to 120,000 workers will be left at risk of not getting a contractor to pay for their training. With no sponsorship and insufficient public funding, these workers will need to pay for training out of their own pockets in order to keep working.”

Intro 1447 was passed at the committee level last week. The bill is part of a package of 18 bills released last January called the Construction Safety Act.

There have been seven construction deaths in the city this year. The first one happened in April at a construction site at 1604 Broadway. Last week, two men died in separate construction accidents. The victims were Juan Chonillo, a worker at the 1 Seaport Residences, and an unidentified man who was operating a forklift cage at One Manhattan West. The accidents happened just hours apart from each other. There were 12 deaths each in 2015 and 2016.

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