Council Approves Construction Safety Training Requirement

New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams. Image credit: NYCC/William Alatriste

City Council unanimously passed a landmark construction safety bill mandating worker training. On September 27, 2017, City Council voted 42-0 to pass Int. No. 1447-C, which will implement mandatory construction safety training standards citywide with equal accessibility. This bill was a controversial aspect of a package of construction safety bills, some of which were passed in May 2017. For CityLand’s prior coverage on this matter, click here.

This bill drew the most debate at the January 31st hearing on the construction bill package. For CityLand’s prior coverage on the hearing, click here. On September 20, 2017, this bill was discussed and approved at the Housing and Buildings Committee meeting. Council Member Jumaane Williams, Deputy Leader and Chair of Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, sponsored the bill. Williams noted the bill was amended 3 times in response to feedback from all affected stakeholders. Williams ended the meeting by dedicating a moment to the construction workers who lost their lives due to conditions that triggered the need for this bill.

I. The Training Requirement

The bill mandates a uniform baseline amount of safety training hours. Workers must have a cumulative total of 40-55 training hours. This training will be phased in over time—10 hours must be complete by March 2018, 30 hours by December 1, 2018 or 6 months after the first phase, and the remaining hours within 5 months after the second phase. The training timeline can be extended based on the capacity of the training provider. The target for full training completion is September 2020.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) standards, as adopted into the City’s Building Code, will frame the preliminary course content. All classes available for training eligibility must be conducted according to OSHA’s outreach training program, approved by OSHA, or approved as an OSHA equivalent. Allowing OSHA equivalency courses will increase the amount of eligible training providers. To further increase training capacity, the City Department of Buildings is going beyond the OSHA standard to allow more than 40 students in a training course classroom.

To complete the first phase, workers must undergo an “OSHA 10” course, as it provides a uniform standard that many can access through equivalency courses. Once the OSHA 10 course is complete, a worker will receive a Temporary Site Safety Training (“SST”) card. The Temporary SST card allows the worker to be employed on a construction site for 6 months while they continue the required training. 

The second phase requires completing either 20 more hours of training after OSHA 10, or initially an “OSHA 30” course. This training must be completed 6 months after the first phase. These workers are granted a Limited SST card, which allows them to work before the full training compliance date. 

A construction worker can earn full compliance and a Site Safety Training Card in 1 of 3 ways: (1) completing 30-45 more training hours, including 8 related to falling workers and objects, after OSHA 10; (2) completing 10-15 more training hours, including 8 related to falling workers and objects, after OSHA 30; or (3) completing a 100-hour training program, such as an apprenticeship program registered with the State Department of Labor. For an apprenticeship program to qualify as a substitute for training, its content must be equivalent to or exceed that of the required training. The Department of Buildings will be responsible for creating the course content of the training hours beyond the OSHA courses.

II. Other Features of the Bill 

The bill creates a task force, with representatives from the construction industry and Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (“MWBEs”), to facilitate training and monitor its content in coordination with the Department of Buildings. Representatives from the construction industry will include both union and non-union representatives, and persons who have been involved in administering construction safety training.

The bill also secures a $5 million commitment from the City Council and Mayor to ensure equal access to training. Williams was proud to announce that this was not an unfunded mandate. These funds will go to local hiring groups to increase capacity for hosting training classes and free and low-cost class options. Expanding access to all areas of the City will maximize the safety benefits of the bill. Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the City Council Committee on Immigration and co-prime sponsor of the bill, noted the importance of the equal access aspect of the bill. “I have a special responsibility to speak out for immigrant workers who lack access to training and workplace protections…Intro 1447 will set new construction safety training standards and save lives.”

Council Member Williams celebrated the bill as a necessary shift towards making worker safety a priority in the construction industry. Williams included in his press release that, “This action begins to address the eroded culture of worker safety in the New York City construction industry, an erosion that has led to unsafe conditions, injuries, and death.” Council Member Menchaca also called attention to the necessary shift in industry culture by stating, “No other industry tolerates such high levels of danger, and there is no justification for delay imposing strict new training requirements…I call on New York City developers, contractors and agencies to adopt a culture of construction safety through worker education and strict enforcement of workplace regulations.”

The bill increases the obligations of owners and developers, by imposing of fine of $5,000 per untrained worker. Building permits will not be renewed until applicants certify that all workers have been trained. To ensure compliance, permit holders will be required to keep a daily log of construction workers and their training status.

Due to the pervasiveness of construction throughout the City, legislation regarding the safety of construction workers and the sites is critical. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito stated, “The wellbeing of all New Yorkers is paramount, and legislation to ensure safety on and around the hundreds of construction sites that operate each day in our city has been long overdue.” The legislation intends to not only protect workers, but also members of the public who pass by construction sites. The bill requires the training to include topics including fall protection, safely working with machines, working with hazardous materials, confined space awareness, walking surfaces, hazard communication, material handling and hoisting, site perimeter protection, tenant and occupant protection, ladders and stairs, drug and alcohol awareness, and first aid.

Lastly, the bill will repeal section 3310.10.2 of the NYC Building Code. This section required only 10 hours of training for construction workers. This requirement is effectively repealed in March 2018, when the new training requirements, in section 3321 of the NYC Building Code, will kick in. Pursuant to the bill, the Department of Buildings and other affected agencies must create rules to implement the training program by March 2018.

CC: Construction site safety training (Int. 1447-2017) (Sept. 27, 2017).

By: Shelby Hoffman (Shelby is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)

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