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NYC Piloting Virtual Inspection Program

Friday, March 26, 2021

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The New York City Department of Buildings has begun piloting a new Remote Video Inspections program that will replace in-person visits for some construction inspections.

The program, which began March 19, lasts for six weeks and will end April 30. Reportedly, the voluntary program will occur for some construction site in Staten Island and Brooklyn. If at the end of the pilot period the program is deemed a success, the DOB will expand the procedure to the rest of the city.

“By conducting a small-scale pilot, the Department will be able to identify operational challenges and address any new processes needed to provide a long-term remote presence,” the DOB said in a program summary.

If the inspector observes elements that are considered unsuitable for virtual inspection, the DOB will require a physical inspection. Contractors can submit a request to take part in the pilot here.

NYC Inspections

Even though remote inspections are on the rise, the DOB had been doing inspections in-person throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

OlegAlbinsky / Getty Images

The New York City Department of Buildings has begun piloting a new Remote Video Inspections program that will replace in-person visits for some construction inspections.

At the end of April of last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued his plan for reopening the state in the several phases; construction and manufacturing started off Phase 1. At the time of the announcement, Cuomo noted that the state would be “closely monitoring the hospitalization rate, the infection rate and the number of positive antibody tests, as well as the overall public health impact and will make adjustments to the plan and other decisions based on these indicators.”

Along with construction and manufacturing, agriculture, wholesale trade and curbside and in-store retail pickup were all also reopened. In order to reopen, businesses had to certify with the state that they could abide by new safety regulations.

However: “In the construction industry, by the nature of the tasks that are at hand, it’s not always possible to social distance,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, in an interview with The New York Times.

The unions reached an agreement with contractors and developers to mitigate risk, he said, including staggered shifts, altered start times and more flexible hours, like a four-day workweek with 10-hour days.

During the suspension of nonessential work, the DOB had been fining violators up to $10,000. After the reopening, the inspectors embarked on visiting every job site in the city.

On June 8, New York City began opening up nonessential construction sites as directed by the phased reopening, which let an estimated 400,000 workers return to construction and manufacturing sites.

For the first 30 days the DOB provided guidance on how to fix noncompliance instead of citations.

At the end of July, the city reported that, during the first days of enforcing COVID-19 safety regulations on construction sites, New York City’s Department of Buildings issued 88 citations, which included 41 stop work orders, according to reports.

Andrew Rudanksy, press secretary for the DOB, said in an interview at the time that NYC received 6,127 complains against contractors for possible COVID-19-related jobsite violations since March 30, 2020.

Despite the numbers, the spokesperson said that largely, construction workers in the city have been compliant with all of the safety protocols since the reopening.

“A large chunk of the construction industry was really paying attention to what New York City went through the past couple months and took the pandemic and trying to slow the spread of the pandemic very seriously,” he said.

Rudansky noted at the time that the DOB—which uses Geographic Information System technology (an interactive mapping tool) to guide inspectors to the city’s 40,000 jobsites—is also relying heavily on calls from residents to 311.

Prior to the pandemic, New York City was in the throes of enforcing new safety guidelines set forth in Local Law 196, most known for its upped requirement of mandated safety training hours.

At the end of 2019, a team of building inspectors formed to conduct surprise inspections at various major construction project jobsites. According to reports at the time, the inspectors had been conducting these surprise visits to major construction sites, which usually involve new construction or renovation projects in buildings four stories or higher.


Tagged categories: Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Inspection; NA; North America; Safety

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