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For Immediate Release
January 7, 2010

BUILDINGS COMMISSIONER ROBERT LIMANDRI ANNOUNCES FATAL CONSTRUCTION-RELATED ACCIDENTS DROPPED BY 84% IN 2009

  Serious Construction Accidents Decline Due to Increased Oversight and Enforcement

Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced an 84% decrease in fatal construction-related accidents in New York City in 2009 when compared to the previous year. While initial permits issued for major construction decreased 33% in 2009, fatal construction-related accidents decreased by a far greater margin - 3 fatalities in 2009 compared to 19 in 2008, 12 in 2007 and 18 in 2006. The significant decrease in fatalities comes as the Department has obtained expanded enforcement powers, increased its oversight of high-risk construction operations and implemented new programs and initiatives designed to raise safety awareness throughout the construction industry. The total number of construction-related accidents and injuries rose in 2009, but the increase is primarily due to more accident reporting by industry members, which is a positive sign that the industry is taking the City's safety reforms seriously.

"A safer construction site means a safer city," said Commissioner LiMandri. "We have been working to change the culture of the construction industry - to put public safety ahead of profit - and our message is being heard. While the tough economic times have slowed down construction, more contractors, developers and licensed professionals are integrating safety into their practices, and this City is a safer place for it. Construction is critical to our economic future, but there is no reason why it cannot be done safely."

In 2009, two construction-related fatalities were due to a worker falling - one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn - where both workers had not properly used a required safety harness. The third fatality was due to the collapse of a concrete wall in Staten Island. In 2008, eight of the 19 construction-related fatalities were due to a worker falling, prompting the Department to launch a multi-lingual worker safety campaign that distributed thousands of posters, brochures and banners to construction sites across the City to encourage workers to wear their safety harnesses.

The total number of reported construction accidents rose from 151 in 2008 to 224 in 2009, and the total number of reported injuries rose from 178 in 2008 to 246 in 2009. The increase in accident reporting exemplifies that more industry members understand the importance of construction safety and the need for change within the industry's culture. Accurate accident reporting will better assist the Department and the industry in identifying operational trends on construction sites and new ways to improve practices. Last year, Department inspectors issued nearly 10,000 full and partial Stop Work Orders when unsafe construction conditions were found.

The Department recently has launched a series of initiatives to increase construction safety and accountability, including:

  • New requirements for construction and demolition operations, such as mandatory training for all tower crane workers, advanced notification and more detailed drawings for demolition work, increased standpipe inspections and new tracking numbers for all major contractors;

  • Increased interagency communication among the FDNY, DEP and the Department on construction, demolition and abatement projects, including a new unit to oversee asbestos abatement applications;

  • The first revision of the City's construction codes in 40 years, which took full effect in July 2009 and brought new fire safety measures to more buildings and expanded safety requirements during the construction process;

  • A new Concrete Unit devoted to monitoring the field and lab work of private concrete-testing laboratories licensed by the Department;

  • A new Stalled Sites Unit devoted to monitoring stalled construction sites and ensuring the properties are maintained in a safe manner; and

  • An unprecedented analysis of high-risk construction resulting in 66 recommendations to improve specific construction practices.

Since 2008, the Department has worked closely with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council and the leaders of the construction industry to enact more than 20 new construction safety laws, including:

  • Requiring detailed drawings for the erection and dismantling of tower cranes;

  • Instituting a smoking ban on all construction sites;

  • Requiring the uniform color coding of standpipes and sprinkler systems;

  • Mandating regular pressure testing of standpipe and sprinkler systems; and

  • Requiring a pressurized alarm for standpipe systems.

In April 2009, the Department hosted its fifth annual Construction Safety Week, a week-long series of events which included educational seminars, training sessions and visits to construction sites throughout the City.

Contact:     Tony Sclafani/Carly Sullivan (212) 566-3473

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