NYC council's penalty plan for construction fatalities and injuries sparks pushback
- Two New York City construction trade groups are pushing back against a city council bill proposal that would mandate a sliding-scale system be used when awarding civil damages for construction-related injuries or fatalities, according to the New York Post.
- The measure, sponsored by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would limit city penalties to $500,000 for companies and $150,000 for individuals when safety violations result in serious injury or death. In civil cases related to construction injuries and deaths, the factors judges would have to consider before making a monetary award include the degree of injury, the defendant's violation history, the extent of willfulness or negligence and the defendant's ability to pay.
- Representatives from both the Building Trades Employers' Association and the General Contractors Association slammed the proposal, arguing that ability to pay should not be a consideration when upholding safety regulations and determining damages.
Giving companies what could be considered a break when it comes to safety compliance is an about-face for Mark-Viverito and the city council, which introduced strict safety-related regulations during the past few years, mostly in response to the increase in worker deaths and injuries during the most recent city building boom.
For example, a site safety coordinator licensed by the New York City Department of Buildings must be present on city projects if the structures are between 10 and 14 stories. The regulations also require that a site safety manager maintain a presence on job sites where buildings 15 stories and higher, or more than 100,000 square feet, are under construction.
After lengthy negotiations and listening to input from all sides, the council passed a safety bill in September that requires most city construction workers to complete at least 40 hours of safety-related training in the next one to three years. Those who have completed similar training or a 100-hour program are exempt. The measure originally required 59 hours of training.
Private sector companies have argued that there aren't enough training facilities to meet the deadline of December 2018, so the council amended the bill to extend the compliance date to September 2020, if that turns out to be the case. Still, workers must take the equivalent of a 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration course by March 2018.
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