Bucks County wants skilled construction workers with OSHA training

Need an electrician or a plumber? Only the best will do, because no one wants to deal with a dangerous short circuit or leaky pipe after paying for quality work.

That’s the idea behind the provision Bucks County added to its responsible contractors ordinance last month.

County commissioners voted unanimously for the amendment that will require construction contractors working on county construction projects to ensure that 70% of their employees have completed training for journeyman status or are in an apprenticeship program to work on a county job site.

Education must have been obtained from an institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor or by the state as a “Class A” training program and have had graduates at least three of the last five years.

The amendment also requires that workers at a job site have received 10 hours of safety training from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and that each job site have prime contractors who have received 30 hours of safety training. OSHA. Project managers are in general contracting and in specialties such as electricity, mechanics and plumbing.

The county passed the measure as it plans several construction projects, including the construction of a new forensic division, treatment and rehabilitation center as well as renovations to the Boone Farm on Route 413 in Middletown. to make it a new home for the Bucks County African American Museum.

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The RCO and its amendment are supported by the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council. The council represents over 50 construction unions in the region.

“It weeds out irresponsible contractors,” said Bernard Griggs, county diversity and projects manager.

Griggs said major construction projects are among the largest, most complex and riskiest investments a public body like the county government can make, but “skilled labor is in strong demand and in short supply”.

Since the county government puts forward projects and accepts the “lowest responsible bid” to save taxpayers money, it is important that the word “responsible” means exactly that, he said during the the meeting of commissioners.

Bernard Griggs is Bucks County's Projects and Diversity Manager.

Middletown’s Jimmy Bayer said as a council member he was “absolutely” for the amendment to the Responsible Contractors Ordinance that commissioners originally passed in 2020.

“An apprenticeship program ensures that skilled workers on the project have completed all the appropriate training for their skilled trade,” said James Keenan of Bedminster. He said there can be dozens to hundreds of different types of workers involved in a construction project “in diverse and highly specialized occupations.

“Given the highly skilled nature of the job, the basic skill in any of these trades requires intensive and focused training through three to five year apprenticeship training programs. All kinds of occupations require training in their particular field of study. Why should construction be any different,” he asked.

Commissioner Chair Bob Harvie and Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo said they know of other government or nonprofit agencies that are having trouble with work being done by low-bid contractors who don’t have people trained on construction sites, and that it was more expensive in the long run. having to redo a poorly done job.

“Having an RCO in place is almost like an insurance policy for taxpayers’ money when it comes to capital projects. Now, capital projects undertaken by the Bucks County government come with the assurance that the most skilled workers, earning prevailing wages, will be This protects our workplaces and ultimately ensures project quality,” said Harvie.

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