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REBNY releases own construction safety plan to oppose City Council bill

The Real Estate Board of New York is going beyond passively condemning a union-backed City Council bill that aims to heighten training standards for construction workers.

The organization, which has the same position on the bill as the de Blasio administration, has released its own construction safety proposal for the City Council.

Photo by Stephen Rush/ Flickr
Photo by Stephen Rush/ Flickr

“REBNY’s commitment to this issue means that we will not simply continue to strongly oppose the current Intro. 1447 in its present form; we are also offering our own construction safety proposal for the Council’s consideration. Our proposal is based on industry best practices from the most sophisticated construction firms in the world and would more effectively increase construction safety, while also ensuring a fair and level playing field for all workers and contractors, regardless of their background or affiliation,” REBNY President John Banks wrote in his weekly REBNY Watch column.

The City Council bill, which has sponsors such as Brooklyn council members Jumaane Williams and Carlos Menchaca, aims to require construction workers to take part in apprenticeship programs. It would also require workers on construction sites of at least four stories to undergo a ten-hour safety training program under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA training is currently only required for workers in buildings at least ten stories. Williams did not immediately return a request for comment.

“The bill, in its current form, was crafted largely based on political rhetoric rather an analysis of data about where accidents were occurring and why. These new onerous and unnecessary requirements will result in the exclusion of non-union workers from employment opportunities. Non-union workers represent the majority of the construction workforce, with over half of the population being immigrants and people of color, according to census data. Further, this bill will prevent many contractors and community-based organizations from maintaining local hiring initiatives on new construction projects,” Banks said.

According to Banks, the REBNY proposal would increase minimum training requirements for first aid, confined space awareness, fall protection and support scaffold skills. It would also lead to the formation of a task force, composed of experts from CUNY and SUNY, for evaluating additional training for high-skilled trades. The task force would also include members from minority and women-owned businesses. The additional requirements would be phased in over a five-year period.

The plan would focus on “gravity-related accidents,” which account for 90 percent of construction fatalities.  It also aims to mandate drug and alcohol testing for all construction workers.

The City Council bill was created as a response to the rising number of construction fatalities in the city. According to the Department of Buildings, there were 12 deaths and 598 injuries in New York City worksites in 2016. One of the latest cases involved electrician Steve Simpson, who died while working at luxury apartment building 555 Tenth Avenue.

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