For Immediate Release: December 28, 2022
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DOB ANNOUNCES WINTER CONSTRUCTION SAFETY CAMPAIGN
Educational Outreach and Safety Enforcement Sweeps of Construction Sites to Take Place Over The Winter Months to Promote Work Site Safety
New York, NY – Department of Buildings Acting Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik, P.E., today announced the start of a new winter construction safety campaign aimed at promoting work site safety in New York City through greater awareness of the potential for serious injuries and fatalities while on the job. The safety campaign, which will run through the winter months, will include citywide enforcement sweeps and educational outreach to active building construction work sites. All of the approximately 40,000 permitted work sites in the City, regardless of size, will be subject to the ongoing sweeps, which are scheduled to continue through February. This new campaign was launched in response to recent tragic construction deaths in New York City. Four workers have lost their lives in separate building construction-related incidents in the months of November and December this year. During their site visits, Department inspectors will walk the site looking for unsafe conditions, distribute multilingual educational materials to construction workers about avoiding common work site hazards, and talk directly to workers during morning safety meetings about the dangers that they face when New York City DOB and Federal OSHA safety regulations are ignored.
“Safety must come first on any construction site, and that means ensuring that everyone on a site has the resources and information they need to stay safe. It also means holding those in charge accountable for their obligations to the law and to their workers,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “With this construction safety blitz, we can halt the trend of recent tragedies and help our city continue to grow while protecting the hard-working New Yorkers on the front lines every day.”
“We must acknowledge that there are inherent risks whenever someone steps foot on a construction site, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept avoidable injuries and deaths,” said Acting Commissioner Vilenchik. “We believe that every death on a construction site in this city is preventable, which is why instituting proper safeguards and bringing attention to the dangers associated with work sites is critically important. I have ordered construction safety inspectors to fan out across the City to hammer home the message to contractors and workers that cutting corners when it comes to safety can have deadly consequences.”
The larger and more complex work sites in the City, which are legally required to have dedicated safety supervision, are mandated by Department regulations to hold pre-shift safety meetings for all of the workers on the site. These required “Tool Box Talks” are an important refresher on best-safety practices on the work site, as they provide a full rundown of all activities and tasks that are scheduled to be performed during the shift, including specific safety concerns or risks associated with the work. During this campaign, Department inspectors will be providing the safety personnel and supervisors on these work sites with additional content to include in their mandated Tool Box Talks, including information about recent fatalities. Inspectors will also be visiting smaller work sites during our scheduled sweeps, which aren’t required by law to hold pre-shift safety meetings, and asking those in charge to hold their own Tool Box Talks for the benefit of their workers. In addition, we will be recommending that the contractors in charge of these smaller sites continue to hold daily Tool Box Talks to help raise awareness of injury prevention on their site. The Department will also begin informing contractors and safety professionals across the City any time a building construction-related fatality or major injury occurs, as a reminder of the consequences associated with not putting safety first on the job site.
Worker falls have long been the leading cause of worker-related injuries and fatalities, both in the City and nationwide. Department data shows that eight of the ten building construction fatalities that have occurred in New York City this year were the result of a worker fall. While inspectors will be going to all types of construction sites across the City, special attention will be paid to ensuring that workers have access to appropriate fall protection systems where required by OSHA, and that they are using these life-saving systems. Work sites that are found to be violating New York City safety regulations could face penalties of up to $25,000 for each construction safety violation. If we find egregious conditions on a work site that are posing an imminent hazard to the public or property, we will take immediate action, stopping work at the site when necessary.
Starting in 2018, the Department began implementing a number of new initiatives intended to promote safety on construction work sites, through mandatory worker safety training, stronger requirements for direct supervision by safety professionals, and unannounced safety inspections by the Department. In part, due to these Department-led initiatives, the City saw a 33% reduction in injuries between 2018 and 2021. Earlier this year, regulatory changes at the Department took effect requiring additional supervision on larger work sites by reducing the number of separate jobs a Construction Superintendent was allowed to oversee at one time from ten to five, with the goal of reducing this number to one site in the coming years.
The four fatal building-construction incidents that occurred in New York City during the months of November and December are all still under active investigation by the Department, our partner agencies, and law enforcement. New Yorkers who observe unsafe conditions on a construction site are encouraged to let the Department know about it by submitting a complaint through 311. All complaints made to DOB are anonymous and will be investigated.