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Labor, Developer, OSHA Sign Safety Pact for Schools

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Organized labor, the federal government and a local business developer signed an "historic" safety agreement Thursday for Buffalo's Joint Schools Construction Project.

Over the next ten years, hundreds of construction workers will renovate and reconstruct Buffalo's aging school buildings. The new agreement represents a comprehensive safety partnership among the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council, Louis Ciminelli Management and state Labor Department. It is rare to have these parties come together.

Building Trades president Dan Boody says this is a significant agreement that will ensure worker safety.

"I can tell you that within the United States, there may be only two or three projects that have had this type of a partnership, where OSHA has come in and partnered with organized labor and business," Boody said.

The Joint Schools Construction Project calls for renovating 64 city schools and building six new schools. Ciminelli Management CEO, Louis Ciminelli, says this is the most important project the city has conducted in 100 years.

"Reconstruction of these schools is the largest project the district has undertaken since the 1920s when much of the physical stock was built," Ciminelli said. "Some of the oldest buildings in the city of Buffalo are probably our schools and our firehouses."

Workers will receive site-specific training as part of the safety plan. Art Dube, from OSHA's Buffalo office, says the Western New York region does much better than downstate and New Jersey when it comes to construction safety.

"The apprentice programs are working. The unions are highly skilled and trained in safety and health issues," Dube said. "We also have a fabulous network of consultants and insurance executives to make sure the job sites are safe."

As many as 700 construction workers are expected to work on the project. OSHA says the goal is make sure each day is safe and healthy for employees.