City partners need to build on milestone construction safety legislation

GARY LABARBERA

 By Gary LaBarbera, president, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, 

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently signed into law the most sweeping construction safety measure ever enacted in New York City.  The law, passed unanimously by the City Council on September 27, comes after dozens of workers tragically died on worksites mainly due to lack of training or simply dangerous conditions.

It was a historic milestone in the progressive fight for workplace safety.  But a lot more work needs to be done in the months and years ahead in order to ensure this law realizes its full potential and ultimately save lives.

We welcome the real estate and development community as needed partners in this effort, despite their vigorous opposition to the legislation.

While some from the real estate industry expressed an array of opinions over the best way to promote worker safety as the bill was being debated, we take REBNY president John Banks at his word when he says that his organization is absolutely committed to safety and that more needs to be done.  After all there were nearly forty construction deaths since January 2015.

The new law requires all workers to complete a ten-hour training program sponsored by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by next March. Construction workers will then need to take at least 30 additional hours of safety training over the next two years.  These requirements will be a small price to pay for employers knowing that workers on their projects will have some of the training necessary to keep themselves and their co-workers safe.

The legislation also creates an intriguing platform upon which business and labor can combine energies to help ensure that the measure truly lives up to its mandate.  Under the new law, a site-safety task force will be created to “establish a mechanism for receiving and reviewing recommendations from the public” relating to the law’s specific training requirements. The law requires that its membership consist of representatives of organized labor, nonunion workers, day laborers, and the minority- and women-owned business community.

In my view this is a great moment for all of us to roll-up our sleeves, put politics aside and trade contention for consensus.   Now let’s all work together to further the goal of making building safer in New York City.

The Building Trades stand ready to join forces with REBNY and the entire real estate industry to make this law both a success here, and a case study for other big cities across the nation.

 

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