Construction industry calls for job site alcohol testing after NYC workers caught drinking on breaks

NOTE: This story has been corrected to show the workers were employees of subcontractor DiFama, not general contractor Gilbane.

Dive Brief:

  • In the wake of a news investigation last month that caught construction workers drinking heavily during their lunch breaks, New York City officials, union heads and industry representatives are all calling for mandatory alcohol testing.
  • The workers, many of whom worked for subcontractor DiFama on a Gilbane site, were filmed drinking beer and hard alcohol then returning to their jobs, which included rigging cranes and operating dangerous equipment, ABC-7 Eyewitness News reported.
  • Gilbane representatives confirmed to ABC-7 that DiFama has fired some workers and that it supports mandatory alcohol and drug testing at all construction sites.

Dive Insight:

New York City is in the midst of a building boom, as construction in the city has skyrocketed 329% since 2009, according to de Mayor Bill de Blasio. However, that surge in construction has also brought a rise in construction site injuries and deaths, as job site accidents rose 90% between 2009 and 2015  from 218 to 433  according to CBS New York.

Lou Coletti, head of the Building Trades Employers' Association, said his organization is working with city officials to enact mandatory testing laws, but that the process is a long one.

"Because you have to negotiate," Coletti told ABC-7. "It's a collective bargaining issue to have mandatory drug and alcohol tests, and we have not been successful."

Construction site safety concerns in New York City have been the focus of heightened attention after a crane collapse killed one pedestrian last month. After the incident, the mayor implemented new crane regulations and quadrupled penalties for for serious construction safety violations.

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