The Department of Buildings (DOB) will conduct a series of safety sweeps of construction sites throughout the winter months, amNewYork Metro has learned.
The initiative is being led by acting Buildings Commissioner Kazimir Vilenchik and is aimed at ensuring safety is maintained at construction sites throughout the five boroughs. Enforcement agents will make visits to approximately 40,000 work sites across the city, from large to small.
DOB reps will not only conduct safety enforcement sweeps, but they will also use their time on the job to educate workers, contractors and property owners about ways to keep work sites safe.
“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,” Vilenchik said. “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 action comes just two weeks after Linden Samuel, a construction worker, was killed at a worksite in Mount Hope, Bronx on Dec. 15, one of four workers who have lost their lives in recent months. The DOB hopes to prevent construction injuries and deaths through this new winter action during a time when labor becomes particularly arduous.
The sweeps will continue through February and will see inspectors walk the sites searching for unsafe conditions. They will also distribute multilingual educational materials to construction workers regarding common work site hazards while talking directly with workers during morning safety meetings about the dangers that they face when New York City DOB and Federal OSHA safety regulations are ignored.
Large work sites are mandated to hold “Tool Box Talks” — pre-shift safety meetings — with dedicated safety supervision where workers are given instructions on safety practices as well as an overview of the day’s activities. The DOB Department inspectors will provide safety personnel and supervisors at these sites to offer additional support and information, including recent fatalities. In addition, DOB Department suggests smaller worksites follow suit in hosting “Tool Box Talks” to help raise awareness and prevent injury.
“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,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said. “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.”
Falls are the leading cause of worker-related injuries and fatalities, not only in New York City but also across the country according to data gathered by the DOB. A shocking 8 out of 10 fatalities that have occurred in New York City this year were the result of a worker fall, DOB says.
It is with this in mind that reps will be paying even closer attention to this potential hazard by 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 violation of New York City safety regulations could face penalties of up to $25,000 for each construction safety infraction. The DOB also charges those sites posing immediate risk will be forcibly shut down.
These sweeps are intended to build upon pre-existing protocols that were implemented back in 2018, such as mandatory worker safety training, stronger requirements for direct supervision by safety professionals, and unannounced safety inspections by the Department. The DOB states that the City saw a 33% reduction in injuries between 2018 and 2021, a percentage they hope will be even greater thanks to the Winter sweeps.