FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 7, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES IMPLEMENTATION OF SUSPENDED SCAFFOLD WORKER SAFETY TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
City Aims to Protect Scaffold Workers by Enhancing Enforcement, Worker Outreach and Training
$6 Million Investment in Task Force Recommendations Includes Newly-Created Department of Buildings Scaffold Safety Unit
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the first steps in the City's plan to better protect workers on suspended scaffolds based on the recommendations of the Suspended Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force convened in November. The Task Force was charged with the development of a strategic plan for enforcement, outreach and training to ensure safety for workers as well as the public. The plan includes new and proactive enforcement tactics, legislative reform, enhanced licensing and training requirements, increased inter-governmental coordination, and an expanded outreach program promoting best practices in multiple languages to the scaffold industry. The Mayor was joined today by Task Force Co-Chairs Deputy Mayors Carol Robles-Roman and Dan Doctoroff, Department of Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster, Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Guillermo Linares, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Area Director Rich Mendelson, Building Trades Employers' Association President Louis Coletti and Project Hospitality/El Centro De Hospitalidad Executive Director Reverend Terry Troia.
"The unprecedented growth in our city is great news for our economy and for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers working in the building trades," said Mayor Bloomberg. "But as the number of construction and maintenance projects in the City has risen, tragically, so too has the number of scaffold accidents. That's why we brought together a team of experts to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure the safety and well-being of those New Yorkers who work hard every day to build a stronger future for our City."
"Today's plan embraces a carefully coordinated and strategic approach by government, industry and community based organizations to ensure that effective enforcement and worker outreach and training mechanisms are in place," said Deputy Mayor Robles Roman. "By strengthening the communication and enforcement efforts between the various levels of government, this plan will guard public and worker safety as the City experiences extraordinary growth and development."
"It is said that timing is everything and these recommendations couldn't come at a better time," said Deputy Mayor Doctoroff. "Right now, we are experiencing an unparalleled building boom with tens of thousands of workers in construction jobs building the residential and commercial structures we need. The Task Force set out to work quickly because this is so important, and I'm extremely proud that we were able to meet and submit these recommendations within six weeks. With the implementation of the Task Force recommendations, lives will be saved."
Scaffold Safety Unit
Over the next four years, the City will invest $6 million to implement the Task Force recommendations, with $4 million dedicated to the creation of a Scaffold Safety Unit within the Department of Buildings to ensure greater accountability and oversight. Comprised of a team of inspectors, analysts and legal support, the Scaffold Safety unit will conduct proactive inspections throughout the five boroughs to ensure the safe and lawful use of scaffolding equipment and required safety and training regulations are being followed. In addition, the team will work with state and federal jurisdictions to compile scaffold-related accident data and issue quarterly updates on the progress of the plan.
"Last year, we saw an unprecedented number of fatalities on suspended scaffolds, the majority of which involved the use of an unregulated scaffold type," said Commissioner Lancaster. "Thanks to the Mayor, Deputy Mayors, City Council, and Task Force, we can move to hold responsible parties accountable, which will in turn protect the workers who are maintaining our City."
Legislation to Focus on Notification, Increased Fines and Inspections
To address dangers presented by work on suspended scaffolds, the Mayor's Office has worked with Council Speaker Christine Quinn's Office, as well as City Councilman and Task Force member Erik Martin Dilan, to draft three bills which have been submitted to the Council. The bills would provide the Department of Buildings with enhanced enforcement tools and establish stiffer penalties for contractors and licensed riggers who violate scaffold training and safety procedures. The first bill would require notification to the Department of Buildings prior to the use or installation of suspended scaffolds hung from C-hooks, which were involved in over 57% of suspended scaffold fatalities in 2006. The bill would also authorize the Department of Buildings to stop work and revoke licenses where unsafe practices are found. To ensure greater public safety, the second bill would increase penalties for the violation of regulations governing licensed riggers and others who supervise suspended scaffolds. The final bill would require daily written inspections by a trained site supervisor rather than by the user of the suspended scaffold as currently required. The new legislation focuses on minimizing risk to the public as well as those who work on suspended scaffolds.
"I am proud to have worked with the Department of Buildings and the many others that took part in the Suspended Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force," said Councilman Dilan. "The safety of the workers in this industry is of great concern to the Council and the Administration and I look forward to the passage of this legislative package as soon as possible to facilitate making this line of work as safe as possible."
Implementation of the Task Force recommendations will require an inter-governmental approach. To establish uniform standards and enhance interagency coordination and data sharing, the Department of Buildings, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the New York State Department of Labor will work together to compile comprehensive accident statistics for use in building enhanced enforcement mechanisms, and promote new, unified safety and training standards in languages spoken by workers in the scaffold industry.
The Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs will work with the three levels of government to ensure that all written educational materials are in easy-to-understand plain language and are translated into a number of the languages spoken by contractors and construction workers including Spanish, Chinese, Polish, Urdu and Russian. In addition, the agency will collaborate with ethnic media and faith- and community-based organizations serving immigrants to disseminate educational materials. In November, the Task Force launched a series of public service announcements in partnership with the radio station WADO 1280 AM, the City's largest Spanish-language news talk radio station. The first PSA was recorded in Spanish by Mayor Bloomberg. Today, the second in the series, recorded by Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Guillermo Linares, began airing on WADO 1280.
"Through outreach and our grass-roots campaign, the message is getting out there: the City wants to ensure that every worker helping build this City has a safe work environment," said Commissioner Linares. "We look forward to assisting government agencies and community groups with making training and educational materials easy to understand and providing greater language access for workers and supervisors. Keeping workers and the public out of harm's way is the top priority of this Task Force."
"OSHA is pleased to continue to strengthen its working relationship with the New York City Department of Buildings," said OSHA Area Director Rich Mendelson. "It's important that we use all available tools - both enforcement and compliance assistance - to keep workers safe on the job. The work of the Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force will help further that goal."
The Suspended Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force was convened on November 2, 2006 to address the growing concerns of the safety of working on suspended scaffolds following an increased number of accidents and fatalities at worksites in the five boroughs. The Task Force, led by Department of Buildings Commissioner Lancaster, brought together New York City, State and Federal government officials and representatives from community-based organizations, construction trade organizations and CUNY to work aggressively and collaboratively to develop a set of recommendations to improve the system of accountability for enforcement, training, and outreach for those working on suspended scaffolds.
Over the next year, the Department of Buildings will convene quarterly meetings of the Task Force to analyze the effects of the implementation plan and develop additional methods to prevent scaffold-related injuries and fatalities. To view the full Suspended Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force report, "Steps to Safety", go to www.nyc.gov/buildings. New Yorkers are encouraged to call 3-1-1 to report unsafe conditions at construction sites.
Stu Loeser/Evelyn Erskine (212) 788-2958
Kate Lindquist (Department of Buildings)
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