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Safety Fines to Surge in NYC

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

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Construction workers and building professionals in New York City will see increased oversight and harsher penalties for skirting safety regulations in the coming months.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Rick Chandler recently announced plans to quadruple penalties for construction-safety violations, conduct more than 1,500 targeted enforcement sweeps and hire 100 more city inspectors.

New York City
©iStock.com / Marcio Silva

New York City officials say construction has surged 329 percent since 2009.

The city-wide initiatives aim to protect workers and the public amid a record building boom, according to city officials.

Construction has surged 329 percent since 2009, contributing more jobs and more housing to New York City, but leading to an increase in preventable construction-related injuries and fatalities. Construction accidents in the city are up 98 percent since 2009, according to DOB data.

No Loss of Life is Acceptable

“No building is worth a person’s life,” said de Blasio.

“We have a responsibility to keep the men and women who are building New York City safe. We are ramping up inspections and oversight to make sure that our workers have added protections. We do not accept any loss of life in this business as inevitable or acceptable.”

The new policies are part of a $120 million modernization initiative aimed at increasing oversight of higher-risk jobsites, conducting proactive enforcement sweeps at sites that have a history of violations or stop-work orders, and requiring a construction superintendent on all new construction and major renovations of buildings under 10 stories.

Smaller jobs have historically had less oversight, but were responsible for the majority of workplace accidents in 2015, according to officials. Seventy percent of construction-related accidents in 2015 took place at sites smaller than 10 stories, officials note.

“We won’t tolerate contractors who cut corners and recklessly increase the risks of construction work,” Chandler said. “Our investigations routinely reveal that accidents could have been prevented if contractors simply followed existing safety rules. We’re determined to change the mindset that safety violations are simply the cost of doing business.”

Policy Changes

According to officials, the new policies are as follows:

  • Fines quadrupled for safety lapses: The DOB will increase from $2,400 to $10,000 the penalties for serious failures to safeguard construction sites. DOB inspectors routinely issue multiple such violations following a construction accident. In addition to higher penalties and stopping work, the DOB will aggressively seek to suspend or revoke licenses/registrations of Site Safety Managers, Site Safety Coordinators, Construction Superintendents and other licensees involved in unsafe construction practices.
  • Sweeps of high-risk construction sites: In early February, the DOB began sweeping contractors with poor safety records who are working on buildings under 10 stories. The DOB will also sweep all construction sites over 15 stories. All told, 1,500 job sites will be swept in the next 90 days. During the sweep, inspectors will be looking for failures to use proper safety equipment, install guardrails or remedy trip hazards, among other infractions.
  • Increase supervision at smaller projects: By July, the DOB will require construction superintendents for all major construction projects at buildings under 10 stories—not simply new construction, as currently required. Superintendents will now have to review sites daily and log all safety information. Contractors who fail to comply will be issued stop-work orders and penalties from $5,000 to $25,000 for repeat infractions or other proactive enforcement measures, as necessary.
  • Increased investments in safety: By this summer, the DOB says it will hire 100 new enforcement inspectors. In addition, the DOB is significantly enhancing its IT and data analytics capabilities to identify and punish bad actors, target buildings that pose a threat to public safety, and penalize unsafe and corrupt behavior in the construction industry.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Citations; Construction; Enforcement; Ethics; Fatalities; Government; Health and safety; Inspection

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