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Safety Sweeps Shut Down 1,499 Sites

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

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Last month, New York City Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca announced the results of the Department’s citywide “Zero Tolerance” construction safety enforcement campaign, revealing that DOB inspectors had issued over 3,600 violations and 1,499 stop-work orders since June 1.

Since the beginning of June, DOB inspectors have conducted sweeps at approximately 7,500 building construction work sites throughout all five boroughs to ensure that proper safeguards were in place to prevent worker falls and other related construction site injuries.

“DOB enforcement is of critical importance in promoting safety at construction sites; but the reality is that we cannot be in all places at all times,” said Commissioner La Rocca. “To protect the lives of the working men and women who are building in our city, we need our partners in the construction industry to step up and join us in pushing for enhanced round-the-clock supervision and greater accountability.”

According to reports, the construction work site inspections conducted during this three-month campaign were in addition to the hundreds of thousands of regular development and enforcement inspections performed by DOB inspectors throughout the city year-round.

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Last month, New York City Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca announced the results of the Department’s citywide “Zero Tolerance” construction safety enforcement campaign, revealing that DOB inspectors had issued over 3,600 violations and 1,499 stop-work orders since June 1.

At each work site, the DOB was tasked with:

  • 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 onsite 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.

The DOB plans to follow up on its “Zero Tolerance” construction safety campaign with the return of its routine unannounced site safety inspections involving NYC’s larger construction work sites, continued interventions at specific sites identified during the campaign that were found to have egregious site safety violations, and a renewed push to enact proposed construction safety legislation.

Inspections & Safety Legislation

The increased inspections arrived because of an uptick in construction-related fatalities. In 2021 alone, New York City witnessed seven construction-related fatalities—all within the first five months of the year.

Shortly after implementing the new safety sweeps in June, the following month the DOB reported that it had shut down 322 construction sites due to hazardous conditions. In addition, inspectors issued more than 1,129 violations for safety issues and non-compliance issues.

At the time, its inspectors visited more than 2,100 sites that qualified under the “larger and complex” umbrella.

In addition to the increased safety measures and inspections, the Department also announced that five new construction safety bills were introduced for consideration in the New York City Council. 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.

If adopted, the bills would create a licensing requirement for general contractors who perform construction work, require more site safety supervision at larger work sites, strengthen requirements for cold-formed steel construction, and permanently ban the dangerous use of stand-off brackets for suspended scaffold work.

“Construction deaths will be inevitable without constant vigilance,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings. “The DOB's new Zero Tolerance sweep has shown that our City is up to the task of creating safe working conditions for construction workers.

“As Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee, I am very pleased to see the results of the DOB inspections at approximately 7,500 buildings along with progress on new legislation. We are on the path to giving construction safety the care it deserves.”

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 determined 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.


Tagged categories: Commercial Construction; Construction; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; Inspection; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Safety; Workers

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