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Construction safety demands a data-driven approach

By REBNY President John Banks 

Improving safety must remain a priority on construction sites across New York City. There is nothing more important than protecting the public and ensuring that workers get home safely to their families each night.

But let’s always remember that good public policy is guided by facts and data – not politics and rhetoric. When it comes to construction safety, that rule still applies.

It is vital to understand this because some in our city are considering a misguided proposal that claims to address construction safety issues, but would in fact do nothing of the sort.

In fact, this proposal would cripple Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE) and limit access to good paying jobs for our city’s large immigrant and non-native English speaking population.

This proposal, which would require apprenticeships on all projects over 10 stories tall, is simply an effort to increase market share for those who operate apprenticeship programs.

JOHN-BANKS-REBNY-WATCH-300x180Don’t just take my word for it – look at the data.

Last year, REBNY conducted a comprehensive analysis of OSHA and DOB records to determine whether construction projects over 10 stories tall are really less safe, as the apprenticeship proposal implies. What we found was just the opposite.

The data showed that between 2010 and 2015, the most unsafe projects in New York City were fewer than 10 stories tall. More specifically, 75 percent of all construction fatalities during this time period took place on developments fewer than 10 stories. Additionally, the data showed that after a construction accident occurred and DOB investigated, sites under 10 stories were 43 percent more likely to receive a safety violation.

This raises some obvious questions. If projects below 10 stories are less safe, why are some groups claiming that the best way to improve safety is through an apprenticeship mandate on projects over 10 stories?

If you’re starting to find this apprenticeship proposal confusing, you’re not alone. The unfortunate reality is that discussions around construction safety in New York City have too often become mired in politics and battles over market share. That politicization – and the fiery rhetoric it employs – makes it much harder for New Yorkers to understand the facts around safety and choose the best path forward.

REBNY and its members are deeply committed to protecting workers and taking every step to improve safety on construction sites throughout the five boroughs. We are so committed to this effort that we believe it must always be based on data and empirical evidence, regardless of whether that data fits into a pre-conceived narrative.

We strongly encourage officials and policymakers to take the same approach as they consider construction safety legislation over the coming weeks and months. It will only be possible to continue improving safety when all parties set politics aside and collaborate on data-driven solutions that put workers first.

I invite you to review REBNY’s construction safety analysis on our website, which also includes numerous other comprehensive industry reports.

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