From June 2014 to June 2016, the number of construction workers in New York City increased by 8.8 percent to a total of 42,000. For that same period, the number of construction accidents increased from 324 from June 2014 to June 2015 up to 526 from June 2015 to June 2016. That is a 62 percent increase in a worker population that has risen less than 10 percent.
Since the construction boom in New York City got underway in 2012, job site accidents have been a concern for workers, developers, and city officials. But in February 2016, a crane collapsed on a windy day killing a pedestrian, and that is when construction safety was thrust into the spotlight. The city government promised action, and in February 2017 the Construction Safety Act was introduced.
What Is The Construction Safety Act?
The Construction Safety Act is a set of 21 bills that focus solely on construction safety. They deal in everything from crane regulations to a new apprenticeship program that would be mandatory for all construction workers in New York City. The Act is ready to be voted on by the New York City Council in early March 2017, and it is sparking off a debate among the entire New York City construction industry.
Who Is For And Against The Act?
The different factions for and against the Construction Safety Act seem to be dividing themselves up based on different bills within the act. The New York City Housing Authority Tenant Associations (NYCHA) and the Association of Building Contractors (non-union construction companies) are coming out against the apprenticeship program. The NYCHA represents minority workers and it states that the apprenticeship program favors Caucasian workers as most apprenticeship programs are union and the majority of union workers are Caucasian. The non-union building contractors say that the apprenticeship programs are unnecessarily expensive.
The New York City Department of Buildings is not happy with a provision in the act that forces the DOB to investigate every construction death in the city, instead of the ones that happen only in work-related incidents. The city argues that OSHA keeps all of the records, but even OSHA’s numbers conflict with the city’s.
The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (union labor) is against the crane regulations because they are said to be too expensive and too restrictive for contractors. However, the Building and Construction Trades Council seems to be in favor of every other bill that is part of the act.
All sides have been demonstrating in the streets since late January 2017- both for and against the Construction Safety Act. The New York Building Congress has asked for another review of the legislation before it goes in for a final vote, and the Building Congress has also asked all sides to come together to try and work out their differences before the Act becomes law.
Why Is This Act Necessary?
Aside from the dramatic rise in job site accidents in recent years, the simple fact is that construction in New York City has become too dangerous. Since 2015, 30 construction workers have died on the job, which makes construction easily the most dangerous job in the city. Land developers argue that more laws are not going to make workplaces any safer, while union representatives insist that making construction safer has to come from government regulation.
All five boroughs are experiencing significant increases in construction revenue, and that trend looks to continue for some time. Meanwhile, non-union shops are accounting for a majority of the deaths and accidents that occur in the New York City construction industry, which has caused many non-union construction company owners to claim that the Construction Safety Act puts new and unfair financial burdens on their companies.
As of now, the council vote is expected to take place at some point in March 2017. Many industry observers are expecting lawsuits to be filed against the various parts of the Construction Safety Act, while safety inspectors for the city continue to wonder what they can do to help make New York City construction safer.