A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

NYT reports that construction deaths are on the rise in New York City

A New York Times report this week digs into why construction deaths have been rising in New York. The numbers are unfortunate and they underscore the need for better-trained craft professionals on jobsites in NYC and all around the world. From the report:

"Eight people have died in construction-related accidents this year, according to the city’s Buildings Department, as many as in all of 2014; the year before, three died. Not since 2008, during the height of the last building boom, has the number of construction accidents been so high, when a rash of episodes, including two falling cranes, claimed 19 lives.

The number of accidents has also been on the rise, with 231 in 2014, up 24 percent from the year before. (Accident figures for 2015 were unavailable.)"

One of the trade associations in the city told the newspaper that the uptick in work is great, naturally, but there is a downside to that. It is quite apparent that companies need to be investing in training programs that create a sustainable workforce with an emphasis on safety:

“The more jobs we have, it either means fewer workers doing more work, or more new workers who may not have as much experience or training,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, a trade group representing contractors, developers and designers.

The report also says that the increased use of non-union labor is another factor contributing to the rise in fatal accidents. In areas where unions are less prevalent, like the South, it is probably even more important for owners of projects to insist that the craft professionals on their jobsites are properly trained.

In Houston, for example, the Construction Career Collaborative has been working to educate owners and contractors about safety training, hourly pay, and more. Executive Director of the initiative, Chuck Gremillion, has written extensively about it:

“For many trades, the complexity of this issue is the challenge (lack of craft and safety training, misclassification of craft workers as subcontractors thereby avoiding payment of overtime and payroll taxes such as social security, and not providing employee benefits or workers’ compensation insurance coverage, all in the pursuit of low bid and covered up by a seeming limitless supply of undocumented workers who labor in the shadows, which depresses wages). All of which is why C3 needs the leadership and support of a critical mass of organizations in the A/E/C industry in order overcome it.

We all must recognize that there is no quick resolution to a workforce problem that has been compounding itself for more than 30 years and that will require perseverance and sheer numbers of people who believe in the cause to correct it.

My concern is that many in the industry either do not believe that the root causes of this problem can be corrected, or they have decided to stand by and take a wait-and-see attitude while “others” address the problem, which is what we cannot afford. In order to generate the critical mass of organizations required to overcome the issues that are the root causes of this problem, we need more people and organizations to leave the sidelines and become involved in order to tip momentum in favor of a sustainable workforce.”

To learn more about the Construction Career Collaborative, click here to see every article about it that’s appeared on Construction Citizen.