Workers rally for safer construction conditions

Construction worker Nicholas Parboosingh, working with tools at a job in Manhattan. He supports legislation to mandate safety training in construction having had the experience of being exposed to unregulated and harmful work areas.
Steamfitters Local 638

A new bill mandating that construction workers undergo safety training is picking up steam from members of a local union group.

Members of Steamfitters Local 638 are in support of the Construction Safety bill, a proposed law introduced to city council in January, to assure that construction workers are trained to meet proper regulations during work. The bill is calling to amend current building codes requiring workers demolishing or constructing buildings in the city to satisfy the law. The risks that come in addition to the job pose a great danger to construction workers across the city, and that is why many are championing the bill, said one Bronx construction worker.

“When I heard about the bill and what it supported, I had to follow it because it’s important — especially for those working smaller companies that are not city property,” said Nicholas Parboosingh, who works installing pipes in various buildings in the city. “It’s really needed out there, you’re not even protected provided you go out.”

Having worked in the construction industry for nine years now since migrating to the states, Parboosingh has been a member of the union for under a month. Since, he has immediately noticed the disparity between safety provisions his union seeks to maintain compared to his previous job, he said.

“Because of what I’ve experience where I was before, I see that safety wasn’t the first thing on their mind,” said Parboosingh. “It was not safe and to go out there and work it’s a lot of risk, but with 638 there’s a huge difference where surface is concerned — they do intensive enforcement and everyday, we go over safety protocol.”

Over the last two years there have been 30 fatalities, the majority in height-related falls, according to a representative from the union. Currently the only safety training that is required for workers in buildings over 10 stories is certification by Occupational Health and Safety Act that can be taken online.

He also says he was exposed to asbestos at his last construction job.

“They had us working on an older building with asbestos and we were supposed to drill through pipes and we didn’t really get any briefing,” he said. “They know it is very dangerous but they don’t care about it and drill the same area.”

To show his support the bill, Parboosingh and his fellow construction workers testified at city council about the harm they are was exposed to without proper safety measures.

Parboosingh says other than safety, he is also very fervent about his trade and profession, and enjoys that he can provide for his family in Jamaica.

“I’m very passionate about it and even though it is hard work, it doesn’t feel like work — the hardest part is just waking up,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]

More from Around NYC