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DOB to Sweep Large NYC Construction Sites

Monday, June 7, 2021

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New York’s Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca announced last week that the DOB will be mobilizing teams of inspectors across the city’s five boroughs to perform safety sweeps of the “larger and more complex” construction sites.

This comes on the heels of three construction worker fatalities over the past two weeks in separate incidents.

According to La Rocca, while performing these zero-tolerance sweeps, the inspectors will issue enforcement actions if they observe any safety violations and will shut down the sites if they find any serious safety lapses.

"The recent spate of construction worker deaths in our city is tragic, senseless – and even worse, entirely avoidable,” said La Rocca. “Department inspectors have been directed to sweep work sites around the city, and unsafe conditions will be met with zero tolerance. The death of even one construction worker is wholly unacceptable.

At each work site, the DOB will specifically be:

  • Ensuring that permitted construction projects are in full compliance with their required site safety plans;
  • Confirming that contractors and safety professionals are closely adhering to New York City’s robust construction safety regulations;
  • Checking that workers on site are properly using safety harnesses and fall arrest systems where required; and
  • Distributing "Worker Alert" safety information on how to prevent worker falls and sending direct mailers to all permit holders performing roof work.

In addition to the recent fatalities, the sweep was also preceded by five new construction safety bills that were presented last month to New York City Council.

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New York’s Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca announced last week that the DOB will be mobilizing teams of inspectors across the city’s five boroughs to perform safety sweeps of the “larger and more complex” construction sites.

The five proposed construction safety bills include:

1) Intro. 2278: Licensing General Contractors

  • Requires all general contractors to be licensed by the DOB and to demonstrate their experience, including practical experience working in the construction industry; receive site safety training; and be responsible for the work they perform under their permits.
  • Allows the DOB to take disciplinary action against general contractors, including, if necessary, suspending or revoking a general contractor’s license.

2) Intro. 2263: Requiring DOB-Licensed Safety Professionals on Major Construction Work Sites Between 7 – 9 Stories

  • Drops the threshold to require full-time DOB-Licensed Site Safety Coordinators or Site Safety Managers to seven stories.
  • Requires contractors to submit Site Safety Plans to the DOB for review and approval before work on major projects.

3) Intro 2276: Requiring DOB-Licensed Construction Superintendents on Major Construction Work Sites Seven Stories and Above

  • DOB-Licensed Construction Superintendents would be required to serve full-time alongside SSCs or SSMs at major construction projects starting at seven stories and assume responsibility for site safety and overall management of the construction project.
  • Limits the number of non-major construction projects for which a Construction Superintendent may be designated, with the goal of having a dedicated Construction Superintendent at non-major construction projects for which they are required by 2026.

4) Intro. 2264: Strengthening Requirements For Cold-Formed Steel Construction

  • Creates new safety requirements for special inspectors, construction superintendents, design professionals and permit holders who are performing cold-formed steel light-frame construction work in NYC.
  • Aimed at preventing the overloading and improper installation of cold-formed steel.

5) Intro. 2262: Banning Stand-Off Brackets

  • Builds upon a 2019 Buildings Bulletin issued by DOB, which prohibited the use of stand-off brackets for C-hook suspended scaffold installations, by making that prohibition permanent.

Safety and New York

In recent years, New York City passed Local Law 196, which, among other things, required increased safety training for construction workers.

Introduced in May 2018, a safety training rule was finalized in New York City—a clarification of Local Law 196, which was signed in October 2017 by Mayor Bill de Blasio. At the time, the law dictated that by March 2018, workers were required to have at least 10 hours of safety training and by December 2018, workers were required to have 30 hours of training. (Supervisors were always mandated with 62 hours.)

However, when the law was signed, de Blasio left the hours subject to change, as well as the curriculum, and a task force was set up to iron out the details.

Crain’s reported that the task force met only once, in February, before making its recommendations for the now-approved 40-hour requirement, which applies to workers at sites for which the DOB requires construction superintendents, site-safety coordinators or site-safety managers.

Deadlines have also since been cemented. While the March deadline for 10 hours held, the December deadline for the 30 (or 62) hours was extended to June 1, 2019, if the DOB determines that “there is insufficient training capacity.”

By November, the June extension was used and, beyond that, workers would also be required to take an additional 10 hours of training by Sept. 1, 2020.

In April 2019, New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., chair of the city’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, promised to ensure Local Law 196 was put into effect, after the city suffered from a chain of construction worker deaths, some occurring within the same week.

However, the following month, a second extension was granted for the increased safety training requirements as administered by OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 to Dec. 1, 2019. The change also granted the Department of Buildings with the option to extend training a third time, so long as the agency announced its decision by Sept. 1. No changes to the 40-hour requirement due by Sept. 1, 2020, were reported.

In July, the DOB released an interactive map showing the location of all the construction sites in New York City where workers and supervisors must have site safety training under 2017’s Local Law 196.

Fatalities and New York

A bill was recently signed into law in New York that creates a statewide death registry for the construction industry, as well as expands definitions on workers and reporting.

New York Senate Bill S1302, which was signed into law Feb. 16, aims to clear up discrepancies of what a workplace fatality actually is—before now, the definition differed among New York’s 58 county coroners and medical examiners—as well as capture more demographic data on on-the-job construction deaths.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic State Sen. Jessica Ramos, and also amends language about workers to include not only direct employees, but also contracted employees, subcontracted employees, independent contractors, temporary workers, apprentices, interns, volunteers and others.

The legislation requires all coroners and medical examiners to now report construction industry workplace deaths within 72 hours to the state’s Department of Labor, which will maintain the registry. At that point, the DOL could request more details about the incident; contractors then have 90 days to respond or face penalties ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 per occurrence.

Proponents of the bill note that this enables the DOL to more easily identify patterns in regulation and enforcement, leading to safer workplace environments.


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

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