A Better Proposal to Increase Construction Safety

REBNY is committed to supporting greater construction safety in New York City by helping to ensure that workers are protected and properly trained. We recognize that a safer construction industry means a stronger real estate industry, especially at a time of so much new residential and commercial development across the city.

We appreciate that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council are focusing on this important issue. However, we are deeply concerned that the mayor and the Council are taking a counterproductive approach that will not increase construction safety and will instead make the construction industry less accessible to minority- and women-owned businesses and kill opportunities to hire locally.

The Council is pursuing legislation known as Intro 1447, which would significantly change the city’s standards with regard to training requirements for construction workers. 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.

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.

Our proposal would increase the City’s minimum training requirement for construction workers using industry-recognized topics, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s OSHA-10, fall protection, support scaffold skills, confined space awareness and first aid. It would also empower a task force to consider additional training requirements for certain high-skill trades. The training requirements would be phased in over five years to ensure that all contractors can fully comply with the new mandate. 

This proposal also directly tackles safety issues by requiring training that is designed to prevent gravity-related accidents that are the cause of more than 60 percent of construction accidents and more than 90 percent of fatalities. Additionally, it would mandate drug and alcohol testing for all construction workers to ensure that no one on a worksite is put at risk by substance use or abuse — a safety measure that is strangely absent from the current proposal.

While the current 1447 does not consider how we can train over 180,000 construction workers, our proposal would create a broad-based task force, including members from the CUNY and SUNY system, to determine how to educate such a diverse workforce without leaving any group behind. The composition of our taskforce would also include members from the MWBE community to ensure these populations are adequately represented in important discussions. This task force would also investigate the demographics of the industry to more accurately and sustainably provide assistance to workers that struggle to complete the training.  And finally, our proposal would require an annual report on construction accidents and fatalities, as well as analysis of the causes of these incidents and recommendations to inform best practices moving forward.

REBNY is proud to put forth this proposal as an alternative to the current 1447 because we know that it is a more equitable framework that will benefit all New Yorkers instead of a select few.

I look forward to discussing this proposal with Mayor de Blasio and the City Council and strongly advocating for it to be considered and passed in the near future. If we work together and focus on the facts – not the rhetoric – around safety, we truly can save lives and make the construction industry better for workers, contractors and the general public.