wind energyThe New York City Council Committee on Economic Development today holds a hearing on bill 1169-2013, which would set worker training and transparency requirements for certain city development projects receiving city financial assistance.

“This hearing is both timely and necessary,” says Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate at Public Citizen, an advocacy organization. Wrightson will testify in favor of the measure at the hearing.

During 2011 and 2012, 36 New York City construction industry workers were killed on the job. These fatal injuries imposed an estimated cost of $187.2 million on New York City’s economy. Wrightson notes that the construction activity is robust because the industry is undergoing a strong recovery in the city, following the 2008 recession.

Numbers going the wrong way

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.

Although on-the-job safety training has been proven to reduce construction industry injuries and fatalities, existing NYC 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.

Weeding out the less scrupulous

“Bill 1169-2013 would ensure training for all construction workers on projects funded by taxpayers, not just those working on city contracts,” said Wrightson. “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,” said Wrightson. “This bill takes a big step in the right direction.”