The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency charged with keeping workers safe. One of the ways OSHA does this is by providing classes in workplace safety, which many industries require of new hires.
OSHA safety training is required for workers in the New York City construction industry; the agency issues cards certifying that a worker has completed the training. The goal of this training is to reduce injuries and deaths at worksites.
A rapid increase in the number of construction worker accidents and fatalities – up by almost a third over the last fiscal year – has prompted investigators from the Department of Buildings and the Department of Investigation to increase the frequency of worksite inspections, specifically looking for workers with forged OSHA training cards.
Investigators have found and arrested a number of workers with such cards. For example, on Oct. 17, five workers were arrested at two housing sites, one in Queens and one in the Bronx. At those same sites, 19 workers were removed because they had no OSHA cards at all. One worker also had a fake driver’s license.
The Bronx site has been plagued by problems and has been shut down twice for not having a safety plan or manager in place.
Although it is convenient to blame workers for trying to get around the safety training requirements, construction companies that hire these workers are equally responsible. In some ways, it is even more disconcerting that 19 workers had no safety training cards at all, fake or real.
Contractors who hire clearly unqualified workers who represent a threat to the safety of others should not get off with an insignificant punishment or a minor fine at the same time their workers are arrested. It is good news that the Department of Buildings is taking the problem of safety training seriously. However, more needs to be done to prevent the increase in injuries and deaths that has come with the building boom in New York City.