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New York City Council Bill Would Help Stem High Fatality Rate at Construction Sites

Oct. 28, 2013

New York City Council Bill Would Help Stem High Fatality Rate at Construction Sites

Statement of Keith Wrightson, Worker Safety and Health Advocate, Public Citizen

At 10 a.m. today, the New York City Council Committee on Economic Development will hold a hearing on bill 1169-2013, which would set worker training and transparency requirements for certain city development projects receiving city financial assistance. Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate at Public Citizen, will testify in favor of the measure at the hearing.

This hearing is both timely and necessary.

During 2011 and 2012, 36 New York City construction industry workers lost their lives on the job. These fatal injuries imposed an estimated cost of $187.2 million on New York City’s economy. This alarming trend is appearing as the construction industry is undergoing a strong recovery in the city, following the 2008 recession.

In 2011, there were 16 construction fatalities; eight construction workers died from slips, trips and falls, five from contact with an object or equipment, and three from other hazards. In 2012, construction industry fatalities rose to 20. Eight workers died from slips, trips and falls, eight from crushing/collapse and four from contact with an object or equipment.

On-the-job safety training has been proven to reduce construction industry injuries and fatalities, but the existing laws mandate only that it be provided by employers operating under city contracts.

The city also funds construction projects through “public benefit corporations,” entities that publicly finance projects through tax incentive financing. But these projects lack the same worker training requirements as projects under city contractors.

Bill 1169-2013 would ensure training for all construction workers on projects funded by taxpayers, not just those working on city contracts. It also would require construction companies to disclose violations of labor, safety and health, or tax laws, which would give city officials an opportunity to “weed out” less scrupulous developers and contractors.

The bill would mandate that construction companies working on taxpayer-supported projects run apprenticeship programs, which help create a highly skilled workforce that is less susceptible to injury.

The Committee on Economic Development needs to pass 1169-2013 now, and the council chair needs to then bring it to the floor for a vote.

Construction industry workers deserve safer workplaces. This bill takes a big step in the right direction.