With all of the new work happening in and around New York City, the threat of construction accidents is a constant concern for those building and maintaining our roads and iconic skyline. This concern is the focus of a bill that has been pending in city council since this past spring, which is still undergoing committee hearings. Local bill 1447 would require safety training and an apprenticeship course for construction workers, but has come under controversy since its inception. While the city debates these matters, lives continue to be lost on construction sites.
A report released in January from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health found that construction worker injuries and deaths have spiked in recent years. In 2011, there were 128 construction-related incidents in New York City, with 17 fatalities. In 2015, there were 435 construction-related incidents in the city, with 25 fatalities. The committee also recommended that construction workers be required to get safety training and take an apprenticeship course.
Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, told NBC, “We must end this epidemic and come together as a city to ensure that we do everything in our power to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities for the men and women who are building our skyline.” Opposition to the proposed safety regulations include claims that the bill unfairly targets large developers, and claims that the bill’s requirement that workers have a work visa and a GED to enroll raise the bar of entry too high.
City database tracking is helping to move the efforts forward
Earlier this year, the city approved a database that would improve tracking of accidents and deaths at construction sites, and at that time the chair of the City Council’s buildings committee, Jumaane Williams, said, “We were derelict in moving fast enough, but we are on a course to get something done.” One can certainly hope so. In the meantime, companies that allow unsafe working conditions to cause injuries or death must be held legally accountable by victims or their families.
Construction work is dangerous. On any construction site, there are many hazards that pose a risk to the safety of workers – but there are also ways to mitigate those hazards. When companies look for ways to complete their projects faster and cheaper, the safety of workers is often a secondary concern. The result is that construction workers get killed. Families are left grieving and struggling to find a way to get by.
There is no doubt that construction projects are a vital part of the city’s economic growth. These projects are planned to create jobs and provide services and products to residents and tourists. Construction workers put their lives on the line to help make these projects a reality. They are men and women of all races and ethnicities. They have families to support and have friends in the community. They deserve a safe workplace, and when construction companies don’t provide that level of safety, we stand up for their legal rights.