- Construction workers, local officials and other New York City community members held a demonstration on Wednesday to encourage the City Council to pass new construction safety legislation, according to Real Estate Weekly.
- The proposed Construction Safety Act would require a number of new measures on New York City job sites aimed at preventing worker deaths and injuries, including the controversial requirement that construction workers on buildings taller than 10 stories complete an apprenticeship program.
- Thirty construction workers have died in job site-related accidents in the city during the last two years, according to trade unions.
The protests come in the wake of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health's (NYCOSH) "Deadly Skyline" report that found 80% of construction deaths in 2014 and 2015 occurred on nonunion jobs. City officials have previously called attention to the fact that the Department of Buildings does not classify construction accidents by union affiliation and urged for a change in that practice.
NYCOSH, which supports the new city safety regulations, said more stringent training is essential to achieve accident reduction and prevention goals. The report also found that 90% of job sites where fatalities occurred also had safety violations.
The proposed legislation could dramatically change how construction companies in the city hire and manage their workforces. Critics of the plan say that safety regulations should be based on data rather than political rhetoric and claim that the current proposal would harm minority- and women-owned businesses. Representatives from the Real Estate Board of New York have said their studies indicate that 75% of fatalities occur on projects where crews are working on buildings fewer than 10 stories and that these projects were also 43% more likely to have safety violations.
In the runup to the City Council vote, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio came out against the proposed apprenticeship requirement, instead suggesting that the city increase the number of site inspections, tighten up regulations and impose greater penalties. De Blasio said the apprenticeship requirement might not be practical for nonunion job sites, as almost half of all such city programs are union-backed.
Union leaders have long maintained that nonunion construction sites are not as safe as union jobs because of the difference in training levels and welcome the possible hiring requirement. Critics of the proposal argue that unions are backing the rule as a way to boost their membership, which has decreased in recent years as nonunion employers have gained traction.