By: Carol A. Sigmond
Local Law 196-17 has been controversial from its inception as a legislative proposal, and the controversy remains as the New York City Department of Buildings (NYC DOB) begins implementation. The public presentation of the original bill was to improve worker safety in construction in New York City. However, many industry observers believe that the original intention of Local Law 196-17 was to ensure that non-union contractors who are not bound by collective bargaining agreement safety and work rules do not have an unfair competitive advantage.
Regardless of its origins and the purposes the Local Law 196-17, the impacts are spreading across the entire New York City construction industry. To date, the NYC DOB is not accepting union training programs to meet the requirements of Local Law 196-17, Local Law 196-17 is directed at high rise construction, which is a major safety issue in New York City and other major metropolitan areas, but not necessarily nationally. High rise construction has more fall and drop risk than low rise construction, which means that training must focus on these dangers.
In theory, Local Law 196-17 should improve worker safety. Many construction workers, particularly undocumented workers, are not familiar with safety standards on construction sites in the United States, specifically those for working on high rise buildings. The requirements are rigorous, and by May 2019, workers must be fully trained, with either a total of 40 (workers) to 60 (site safety managers) hours of safety training. The interim requirements are an OSHA-10 course by March 1, 2018, and an OSHA-30 course or equivalent by December 1, 2018. These requirements apply to workers on buildings over 10 stories initially and to all workers effective December 1, 2018. There are provisions for some extensions on the deadlines.
The only exceptions to the training requirements are flaggers, delivery persons, licensed design professionals, special inspectors licensed by the NYC DOB, and workers employed on projects with minor alterations or one, two, or three family homes. The current issues are the lack of accredited training courses and whether the new safety training and procedures will delay construction without improving worker safety.
Longer term, there are three significant issues. First is an issue regarding the barriers to entry into the field of construction. Since 1965, the policy of the United States and many of the states has been to keep the barriers of entry to construction low to promote minority and disadvantaged business participation. Local Law 196-17, with its efforts to cause employers to pay for training, the heavy training requirements, the de facto apprenticeship requirements on virtually all projects, and the significant fine structure for noncompliance will create new barriers to entry into construction company ownership. Second, Local Law 196-17 may increase insurance costs as the law will provide additional, less specific standards for finding liability under Labor Law section 241 (6), which will also increase the barriers to participation.
Third, all of this is going to increase the cost of construction in New York City. For condominiums and cooperative buildings that are often more than ten stories, the cost of Local Law II facade inspection and repair is going to increase, by how much is as of yet unknown, but existing pricing models are already outdated.
This column presents a general discussion. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should consult your attorney for specific legal advice.