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Could more training reduce construction accidents in New York?

Are non-union workers a threat to the safety of themselves and others? The unionized construction workers in New York think so.

There's often tension between union and non-union employees, especially in construction. But while most of the tension focuses on things like wages and benefits, the issue now being addressed by the unionized workers is something much more basic: personal safety.

They argue that non-unionized workers may be putting everyone on and around the job sites in New York at risk—and they may have a point. An assessment by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that 80 percent of the recent construction deaths were at non-union sites. Additional safety violations also existed at 90 percent of the same construction sites.

Given that only non-union work only accounts for 25 percent of the overall construction work in the city, that's a significant statistic.

The unions workers believe that the nonunion workers are lacking in standard safety training and that could be remedied if the city council would push through legislation requiring all construction workers to go through either an apprenticeship program or receive similar training.

The number of safety inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fallen about 27 percent since 2011, mainly due to fewer OSHA inspectors in the state. This drop in inspections comes right when New York City is experiencing a building boom. As a result, incidents involving either fatalities or injuries went from 128 in 2011 to 435 in 2015.

That means that employers are going to have to take more responsibility for seeing to it that their construction sites are safe. Investing in more safety training for the average construction worker seems like it would be a prudent place to start. Even having the best safety equipment around isn't much use if workers aren't trained on when and how to use it.

In addition, site managers may want to take advantage of training opportunities that will help them spot dangers before they turn into an accident.

It's important to keep in mind that untrained workers don't just put themselves at risk—they put everyone around them at risk as well. That can also include pedestrians passing by construction sites, especially in the narrow streets of New York.

If you're injured while either working on a construction site or while passing one, the advice of an attorney can be very beneficial.

Source: Daily News New York, "NYC has the power to protect workers from construction accidents," Gary Labarbera, Feb. 01, 2017

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