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Construction Accidents, Deaths May Be Reduced with Training: Group

More than 1,500 construction workers died from on-the-job accidents and injuries in the United States during 2011 and 2012, and the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen indicates that many of these incidents could have been prevented with mandatory training requirements and improved safety policies.

In a report titled construction accidents, calling for expanded training in the industry and other steps.

The group highlights the economic impact of construction accident deaths in New York City, identifying 36 workers who died in the city during 2011 and 2012. More than 70 percent of those deaths involved workers who did not participate in state-approved training and apprenticeship programs, the report reveals.

Approximately three percent of the New York City workforce is composed of construction workers. However, construction workers accounts for 24 percent of all workplace deaths in New York City, a disparity that Public Citizen hopes to see change.

The consumer group is promoting the Safe Jobs Act, which is pending in the New York City Council and would require construction training for all workers on taxpayer-funded projects, included those offered by public benefit corporations. It would also require all construction companies to disclose labor, safety and health violations and require construction companies working on large projects over $1 million to be supported by apprenticeship programs.

Each year $2 million in aid is offered in contracts to public benefit corporations, which provide construction jobs in New York City.

Under current requirements, public benefit corporations are not required to abide by safety standards on construction jobs or provide on-the-job safety training apprenticeship programs, only conventional city construction contracts are mandated to do so.

Under the proposed legislation, contractors would be able to establish state-accredited apprenticeship training programs, offering them a competitive edge to compete for public benefit corporation contracts. The act would give city officials an avenue to determine which contractors are less reliable and create a more skilled workforce with a lower incidence of injury.

According to the group’s report, the leading causes of deaths from construction accidents include falls, electrocution, being struck by an object or being caught in or between an object. These accidents, which they dubbed the “fatal four,” were responsible for 57 percent of construction related deaths nationwide in 2011.

On-the-job safety training has been proven to reduce construction injuries and deaths, according to Public Citizen, which indicates that the proposed training can especially reduce the death rates associated with the “fatal four” accidents.

Fatal construction injuries and a poorly trained labor force has made a deep impact in New York City’s economy to the price of more than $186 million and causing thousands of unnecessary deaths over the years, according to Public Citizen.

“Most construction workers are being put at far more risk than they ought to be, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” said report author Keith Wrightson. “We owe it to construction workers to improve safety policies, and expanding training requirements would be an effective change.”

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