The Department of Buildings (DOB) for the City of New York has become laser-focused on increasing safety at all construction sites located throughout the City. Beginning in 2019, the City launched more stringent protocols and regulations regarding safety measures at construction sites, including mandatory safety training for workers on larger sites and stricter enforcement of regulations by safety task forces deployed throughout the five boroughs. The results of the DOB actions with respect to constriction site safety have proven significant over the past few years.
The recent uptick in safety inspections and reinforcement of the DOB's zero tolerance policy is directly related to the increased number of construction-related deaths that occurred earlier this year. In the current inspection sweep by the DOB, 322 construction sites have been shut down due to safety issues at the sites and hundreds of partial or full stop work orders were issued as part of the zero tolerance mandate. In addition to the partial or full stop work orders issued following the inspections, 1,129 code violations and non-compliance violations were issued to various construction sites throughout the City. The goal of these increased inspections and "sweeps" by the DOB is to prevent construction site-related deaths and serious injuries.
The "zero tolerance" safety sweeps include inspections of construction sites and subsequent shut-downs of any sites the DOB inspections determine are not in compliance with the New York City regulations. If any safety deficits are discovered at the site, depending on the severity, the inspectors have the authority to shut down the site and request immediate modifications to the safety protocols in place. Violators could face up to $25,000 in fines for each violation issued at the site. In addition to issuing violations during the inspections of the sites, the DOB teams will also be distributing at the sites "worker alert" safety information on how to prevent worker injuries and falls.
At each worksite during the inspections, the inspectors will:
- Ensure permitted construction projects are in full compliance with required safety plans.
- Confirm contractors and safety professionals are adhering to the City's construction safety regulations.
- Check that workers are properly using safety harnesses and fall arrest systems where required.
- Distribute safety information on fall prevention. DOB will also mail the information to all permit holders issued in the City for contractors performing roof work.1
In a report compiled by the Department of Buildings in 2019-2020, the data demonstrates that construction site deaths and injuries have significantly declined since stricter standards were enacted by the DOB. The report revealed that construction-related injuries and deaths dropped significantly in 2019 and 2020 for the first time in over 10 years. DOB claims that the increased regulations have directly contributed to the decline in death and serious injuries at construction sites in the City. The DOB also concluded that enhanced safety training for workers and new proactive construction inspection protocols enacted by the DOB are helping to prevent additional deaths and injuries.
According to an analysis of a report issued by the Associated Builders and Contractors of the Empire State, in 2019, 595 construction-related injuries in New York City were reported. This number was down 21% from the 761 injuries reported in 2018. Twelve construction-related deaths were reported in 2019, which was the exact number of deaths in 2018. In 2020, however, construction-site deaths fell to 8, which was a significant decrease from the 2018 and 2019 numbers. Construction-related injuries also fell in 2020 to 502, which was a 15% decrease from the previous year. The Department of Buildings points to their focus on enforcing regulations and increasing safety standards at construction sites as the reason for the decrease in construction site deaths and injuries.2
Our experienced team of construction defense litigators in WSHB New York City office is ready to answer your questions about construction workplace safety and regulations and assist in ensuring compliance with all workplace safety issues. Before a shovel hits the dirt, WSHB's team of litigators stands prepared to help owners, contractors, construction managers and design professionals navigate the DOB workplace requirements and ensure that all safety measures are implemented at the construction site. Our services include contract preparation, contract and insurance review, risk transfer evaluations, entity formation and work place safety advice and training. Once construction commences, we are ready to assist with disputes over change orders, contract terms, delays and any issues regarding suits by workers ranging from employment issues and personal injury actions resulting from accidents at the worksite. Our attorneys are well-versed in the intricacies and nuances involving the New York State Labor Law provisions and requirements for site safety in the construction industry. Despite the best risk management and practices, worksite accidents and subsequent personal injuries will still occur. WSHB's experienced team of litigators will be there to protect our clients' interests in the construction industry every step of the way.
1 "NYC conducting 'Zero Tolerance' safety sweeps at largest construction sites," Safety and Health Magazine, July 8, 2021.
2 "DOB Releases First of its Kind Multiyear Construction Safety Analysis for New York City," Associated Builders and Contractors Empire State, June 28, 2021