Building Trades

Mayor Bloomberg calls for federal crackdown on bogus OSHA classes

Monday, February 2nd 2009, 3:28 AM

Mayor Bloomberg called on the feds to crack down on bogus construction safety programs Sunday after a Daily News sting exposed trainers teaching crucial 10-hour courses in two hours.

An undercover reporter attended what was supposed to be a 10-hour federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration‘s training course above a Bronx bar, paying $125. The course lasted 2 hours and 17 minutes, during which some classmates sipped beers on breaks.

“It’s very worrisome. We depend on OSHA to train the workers here so that you’re safe when you walk by a construction site, so that the people who work on that site are safe,” Bloomberg said. “I don’t know if these stories are accurate, but if they are, OSHA should do something about it right away.”

OSHA officials said they will look into the paper’s findings.

“We’re going to monitor this and see what’s going on,” said Earl Hicks of OSHA’s Washington office.

Hicks confirmed OSHA has opened 10 investigations nationally of this growing problem, including two in New York that have already resulted in license suspensions.

In July, an undercover investigator working for the city School Construction Authority was able to buy six fake OSHA cards certifying the holder had completed a rigorous 30-hour OSHA course. A certified OSHA trainer has been suspended as the investigation continues.

And in June, OSHA officials confirmed, the agency suspended another trainer in response to a News report that an immigrant worker who received no more than a two-hour safety lecture was able to obtain a certificate stating he had completed 30 hours of lessons on tower crane safety.

At the same time, Hicks said OSHA has put together a “watch list” of trainers “who have been subject to corrective action including suspension or revocation of their trainer status.”

The list, which the agency expects to make public in weeks, will prevent trainers whose certification has been revoked from obtaining new approval at a different OSHA training facility.

Construction union officials complain that while the demand for OSHA safety courses has increased, the agency’s response to growing fraud has been feeble.

Martin Daly, who supervises OSHA-approved training at the District Council of CarpentersLabor Technical College, said the union has repeatedly alerted OSHA and the city Buildings Department about problems with bogus cards and shoddy training.

“As far as I know, they’ve taken no action,” he said.

A new city requirement demands hardhats working on buildings 15 stories or higher complete a 10-hour OSHA training course by July. Those who have already done so must take a refresher course within five years.

Daly and other construction insiders allege there’s been a spike in bogus classes and fake certificates.

The course, called the OSHA 10, is designed to combat the record number of construction deaths (19) and injuries (181) in the city in the last year. Many of the injuries and deaths occurred after workers ignored construction site safety rules.



February 4, 2009

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