The Construction Safety Act of 2017 includes laws and regulations that went into effect on October 16, 2017, affecting many construction projects across New York City’s (NYCs) five boroughs. While the entire act includes specific safety requirements for various construction situations and lays out stiff penalties for non-compliance, the law that is considered its centerpiece is known as Local Law 196 (LL196). This law requires that workers must receive 40 hours of safety training to work at job sites that are required to designate a Construction Superintendent, Site Safety Coordinator or Site Safety Manager. Superintendents at the same sites must receive 62 hours of safety training.
Since the initial 30-hour training requirement phases in on June 1, 2019 (as of the writing of this article), construction professionals working in NYC are, hopefully, already fully prepared. Taking a broader view, though, what impact does this kind of legislation have on construction companies around the country? And, what, if any, does it actually change about being safe on the jobsite? Let’s dive into these questions by digging a little deeper into LL196.
How does LL196 compare to the previous law?
Prior to the enactment of LL196, the NYC Building Code (section 3310.10.2) required that all construction workers on major building sites complete a 10-hour OSHA safety training course a minimum of every five years. This requirement was broadly enforced by New York’s Department of Buildings (DOB) and everyone knew they had to carry a current 10-hour OSHA card to work on the site.
Importantly, Peter Simons of Total Safety Consulting reported, “the 10-hour OSHA safety training requirement included groups like surveyors, special inspectors, security guards, construction managers, consultants and essentially all workers that could be exposed to safety hazards while on a construction site. The passage of LL196 repealed the standalone 10-hour OSHA training requirement for workers and caused a DOB paradigm shift on what it means to be a worker. Suddenly, under the LL196 scheme, there are groups of workers on major buildings exempt from all minimum baseline safety training (including the 10-hour OSHA).”
This leaves NYC construction companies in a quandary when it comes to ensuring that everyone on a jobsite at a given time is adequately trained and as safe as possible. Unless this aspect of LL196 is updated or more clearly defined, “workers” who do not fall under the law’s limited definition could end up in harm’s way due to lack of training.
Might LL196 have a ripple effect across the country?
As the most populous and influential city in the United States by far, nearly everything done in NYC has a wider impact on the rest of the country. This doesn’t mean other cities will automatically follow NYC’s lead, but it’s likely many will at least be considering the pros and cons of doing so over the next few years.
OSHA safety standards are applicable across the country and, currently, most states and municipalities either rely solely on them or model their own laws on the existing standards published by OSHA.
The fact that LL196 veers away from OSHA standards, even in a relatively small way, opens up an interesting and even concerning doorway construction pros need to consider carefully before walking through. Undoubtedly, the complete Construction Safety Act’s intent is to improve construction safety in NYC and to prevent the unfortunate number of injuries and fatalities that plague the construction industry each year. However, if and when other local or state governments follow suit, it may continue adding confusion and resource drain to what is already a challenging management situation for construction companies.
What can general contractors do now to improve construction safety?
Regardless of what changes in construction safety laws in your area, a few basic principles will never change:
The more someone knows about being safe on a jobsite, the safer everyone on that site will be.
The more controlled the jobsite itself is — including access, monitoring, and behind-the-scenes management of people and information — the more effective efforts to improve safety will be.
That’s why a workforce management solution can have such an impressive impact on jobsite safety. These solutions incorporate access control, workforce registry, asset management, and other disciplines to ensure everyone present on a jobsite is adequately qualified and trained to carry out whatever activity they’re there to do.
The use of hardware and software to better monitor and manage an active jobsite has been proven to reduce OSHA violations and improve overall incident rates dramatically. These solutions can also help safety managers develop and enforce effective safety plans for each site, even above and beyond the minimum requirements set by local regulations.
To learn more about workforce management solutions, including asset management, workforce registry, and access control, take a look at lem.trimble.com.