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Safety card fraud case in New York ‘disturbing’ says DOB commissioner

Don Procter
Safety card fraud case in New York ‘disturbing’ says DOB commissioner

The criminal indictment against senior executives and employees of a New York safety consulting firm for allegedly selling construction safety training identification cards to workers without providing mandatory safety training is troubling and could see the industry on heightened alert for other fraudulent activity.

Department of Buildings (DOB) commissioner Jimmy Oddo called the allegations against Valor Consulting by the Manhattan District of Attorney’s office “disturbing as they have allegedly allowed thousands of people to work on construction sites in our city without the required safety training.”

In a news release, the DOB stated it has disabled all of the more than 20,000 Site Safety Training (SST) cards issued by Valor Consulting in circulation, 17,000 of which are currently active. It also issued a notice of intent to revoke the consultant’s status as an agency-approved safety training course provider to the construction industry.

Elizabeth Crowley, president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, commends the DOB “for sending a strong message to safety training course providers that there will be stiff consequences for lapses in qualifications and integrity.

“It is reassuring that the DOB is committed to making sure every construction worker gets the proper safety training certification,” she said.

While Brian Sampson, president of Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABCNYS), was “a bit surprised” by the high number of fraudulent SST cards revealed, he says various certifications for safety have been faked for years in the industry.

“We thought we’d see a little less of that (when SST cards were implemented under Local Law 196 in 2017) and I think generally we have.”

There are more than 360,000 construction workers in the city with active SST cards issued by the more than 150 DOB-approved training providers. They can be scanned by contractors or inspectors using a smartphone app.

Industry observers suggest other safety firms could be crossing the line.

“Where there is smoke there is fire,’’ says Crowley, adding the DOB must continue its vigilance to ensure proper training is provided.

Sampson says when the ABCNYS became aware of the issue, it advised its members to check their sites for anyone, including subcontractors, who might have received safety certification through Valor.

“I think what most of the industry did, understanding the DOB was likely to revoke all of those cards, is they sent people away to get new cards.”

He says the DOB has been increasing enforcement measures.

“As a training provider we see greater scrutiny of our classes, the certificates and the licensure of our instructors.”

Other trainers have been echoing his comments since the issue with Valor came up, he adds.

The DOB originally suspended Valor’s ability to provide training and issue SST cards in April 2023, because of major inconsistencies in the company’s training records. It has worked with the Manhattan DA’s Office and the New York City Department of Investigation as a case was built, leading to the criminal indictment announced on Feb. 28, 2024.

Sampson says the DOB is making improvements to the vetting process and has looked at virtual capture of certification including SST cards.

“It is all going toward the modernization of the DOB which will create an atmosphere where the industry gets better, the safety of the workers is enhanced and ultimately the projects we’re putting out are better for the communities,” he says.

Sampson says greed isn’t the only reason this type of fraud is committed.

“Some people may have gotten behind the eight-ball and weren’t up to speed with their training and they cut corners to keep projects moving.”

Crowley sees the problem lying with the employer, not with her union contractor members.

“There is never a situation where you don’t have time every day to have a safety huddle and prioritize not only for yourselves but your fellow workers. Any contractor that is in too much of a hurry should be barred from work in New York City,” she says.

In a statement to the media the DOB indicated it has reached out to the construction workers with the fraudulent SST cards as well as contractors citywide, urging them to get legitimate SST training as soon as possible.

If a contractor allows a worker without a valid SST card to enter their worksite, they could be subject to enforcement actions from the DOB, it stated.

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