It’s no surprise that construction workers face some of the most dangerous workplace hazards out there. From the heavy machinery and tool use to the excessive heights and exposure to the elements, there are a lot of ways a job can go wrong — especially if OSHA standards are violated in favor of speed.
New York City understands firsthand what that means. During an unprecedented growth period where construction projects were in high demand, the Big Apple experienced an increased rate in construction-related fatalities and injuries: fatalities jumped from 17 in 2011 to 25 in 2015 — a shocking 32% increase –, and injuries went from 671 in 2016 to 761 in 2017, a 13% increase.
“Some bosses, they don’t like to spend money and they want to finish quickly,” said Ibrahim Janka, a scaffolding builder who has been working in New York City for 12 years. Getting a construction site up to code can take up to a day, he said, for a job that may only take a few hours to complete. “They don’t care. They want to be fast-fast. And if you ask the boss about it, they will be angry.”
A Change In Place
Fortunately, the city’s local government has decided to step in. In response to these startling statistics, the city passed Local Law 196; it requires workers on specified construction sites to receive 40 hours of training by June 2019.
With less than six months left to make the deadline, construction workers have been heading to the New York Safety and Training Center in the Bronx to receive their training. The curriculum — called OSHA-30 — is provided by OSHA, the federal agency in charge of ensuring the continued health and safety of America’s workers, and it is extensive.
Most importantly, it details the ‘fatal four,’ or the four most dangerous construction site risks: falls, electrocution, ‘struck-by,’ and ‘caught-in-between.’ Approximately 5% of slip and fall accidents result in fractures, but if you’re falling from a 10-story building? You probably won’t be so lucky. The second half of the course details protective measures, especially related to equipment and gear, as well as workers’ right to a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. One area that becomes muddled, however, is with the interference of weather.
Vital Next Steps
OSHA does not have any regulations when it comes to the temperature on outdoor job sites. Summers are getting hotter and winters are getting colder, but construction never ceases; workers are at risk for any of the three heat-related syndromes (heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps), as well as frostbite and hypothermia. Though the occurrence of these events are less likely than the fatal four, they are absolutely something construction workers the nation over should be aware of.
The purpose of OSHA-30 is to teach construction workers (and their bosses) how to prevent accidents from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, accidents are called accidents for a reason; sometimes, despite our best efforts, people get hurt. For example, doctors estimate that as much as 80% of the population will experience back issues at some point in life. The next level of OSHA-30 should be to teach workers how to respond should someone need assistance, whether that means a CPR training course or lessons on how to use automated external defibrillators (AEDs); the lack of CPR can decrease a victim’s chances of survival by 7% with every minute that passes, and onsite AED use can increase the chance of neurological survival by an astounding 93%.
Hopefully, the training program will have a positive effect on the construction workers operating in New York City. Any accident that is prevented is considered a win.