Presented By: Building Trades Employers' Association
Keeping New York Safe: How the Construction Industry Protects Workers and the Public
Commercial Observer spoke with BTEA’s Lou Coletti about safety, government regulations, and the effect of technology on the construction industry
Commercial Observer recently hosted Lou Coletti, president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA), for a discussion about safety, government regulations and the impact of technology on the construction industry in New York City. Here is an overview of that discussion.
Coletti mentioned a BTEA study from two years ago that was based on data from OSHA and showed that 83 percent of deaths that occur on New York City construction sites occur on projects by non-BTEA contractors. According to statistics from the New York City buildings department, 67 percent of accidents and 65 percent of the stop work orders show the same.
Discussing the new Local Law 196, which mandates safety training for the construction industry and takes effect on June 1, Coletti said that most BTA contractors and staff have already undergone this training, and that he believes the law will have a tremendous impact on contractors and others who have not.
But, he explained, “If we don’t have an appropriate level of enforcement, then this legislation will not achieve the goals it set out to achieve.”
As for ensuring implementation by the June 1 deadline, Coletti believes it’s “going about as well as it can,” and that the effort has been assisted by regular feedback on what’s required from the Department of Buildings.
As for whether he believes he’ll achieve full implementation by June 1, he said, “I’m not sure.”
On the subject of technology, Coletti said it’s playing “a major, major role” in the BTEA’s safety programs, mentioning the installation of more and more cameras on work sites.
“God forbid if there’s a fatality, or any type of injury,” he said, “we’ll have footage to understand why it happened.”
He explained that this is essential for safety in general, but especially because of the 240 Scaffold Law, a law that is only found in New York State. Under the 240 law, the owner and the contractor on a project have “absolute liability.”
“Under this law, insurance in New York State costs about $43 per square foot,” said Coletti. “In the surrounding states, it’s three to five dollars.”
The good news in all this, according to Coletti, is that BTEA contractors and the various unions they work with have enjoyed a “great deal of cooperation” in terms of safety. The BTEA hosts a monthly safety meeting that includes representatives from the buildings department, the fire department, and OSHA.
“So, we get to hear on a monthly basis,” he said, “what trends they’re finding on our job sites, so we can go back and make the appropriate adjustments.”
Overall, while Coletti feels that all parties have done a great job of increasing safety on job sites, the 240 Scaffold Law is “the albatross in the room.”
Coletti made it clear that he feels the political alliance between trial attorneys and organized labor continues to be the single biggest obstacle for reform.