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NYC bill sets aside funding for MWBE worker safety training
Published on 10/09/2017

In a unanimous 42-0 vote, the New York City Council recently approved a construction worker safety training bill that requires all workers on construction sites of three stories high or taller to complete at least 40 hours of safety training.

The 40 hour training course must be completed by December 2018, though by March 2018, workers must complete a course that is the equivalent of OSHA 10 - a specific course sponsored by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. There are exemptions for workers who have completed specific apprenticeships or training courses in the past five years. Construction sites that violate the new training requirements can be fined up $25,000 per untrained worker.

While many applaud the passage of the bill, due to a spate of deaths on New York City construction sites in recent years, as well as concern for the welfare of the uniquely-vulnerable immigrant population that has a widespread presence in the construction worker trade, some in the minority- and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) community see some downsides to the bill.

Before the recent Council vote, Gregory Meeks, US Representative for New York, warned that all stakeholders, including MWBEs without union connections, would need to be part of the decision process on the bill. John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, expressed concern that the bill did not do enough to ensure there was an adequate supply of training opportunities, or ensure that workers without a stable relationship with a specific contractor would be able to pay for training. Charlene Nimmons, of Public Housing Communities, also expressed concern that MWBEs would not have access to sufficient capital to meet the new training requirements, saying that there was "always a waitlist" when it came to getting training and certification.

To answer such concerns, the final bill passed by the council sets aside $5 million for giving day laborers and small contractors access to the required safety training. Additionally, the Department of Buildings may extend the December 2018 deadline for training to September 2020, if it finds that training facility availability is inadequate.

Nimmons, though, speaking before of the passage of the bill, said that Public Housing Communities is working with many businesses that often struggle to access an adequate flow of capital even when promised reimbursements.

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