Families of the firefighters who died in last summer’s fire at the former Deutsche Bank building held a demonstration at the Manhattan site yesterday morning to call for construction site safety and reform throughout New York City. Meanwhile, a Kodiak crane owned by New York Crane at a Washington Street construction site is being dismantled after inspectors found two cracks in the turntable of the tower crane. Kodiak cranes owned by New York Crane were involved in fatal crane collapses that occurred on March 15, 2008, and May 30, 2008. These developments and others make all the more critical passage of the aggressive legislative agenda that will equip the Buildings Department with additional oversight and enforcement powers.
These enforcement powers will further the safety of New Yorkers and construction workers,announced earlier this month by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Speaker Christine Quinn, and Acting Buildings Commissioner Robert D. LiMandri, with the support of construction developers, contractors and organized labor. After meeting for the rally at the site of the Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty Street, first responders, Lower Manhattan residents then held a March for Safety from the site to City Hall.
Investigators reviewing the Deutsche Bank fire discovered problems with a broken standpipe, sealed staircases and incomplete building inspections. Further investigations into the fire are being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the attorney general’s office, and the FDNY.
The Buildings Department shut down the 12-story tall crane on Washington Street in March because its I-beam was missing a pin. A later inspection reportedly found that the mechanism used to keep the crane’s boom locked was not functioning.
The centerpiece of the City’s proposed comprehensive safety agenda focuses on the highest-risk construction operations by requiring new oversight of general contractors and concrete and demolition operations. On the day before announcing this major overhaul of the law, Mayor Bloomberg signed legislation clarifying building code regulations for training of scaffold workers. Introductory Number 547-A, Mayor Bloomberg says, clarifies the Building Code by ensuring that only workers with the required training may erect, modify or use a supported scaffold and imposes liability on anyone who knowingly allows an untrained person to work on these scaffolds.
Furthermore this bill allows the Buildings Department to approve providers of required training for scaffold workers to ensure that all scaffold workers are properly trained.
- Contractors with Poor Safety Records Will Be Held to More Rigorous Standards
The legislative proposals will:
- Require General Contractors and Demolition and Concrete Subcontractors to Register for a Safety Control Number before Obtaining Building Permits.
General contractors are responsible for complex construction operations on both high- and low-rise job sites, and their responsibilities include the hiring and coordination of subcontractors who perform specialized work. In 2007, 60% of incidents involving material falling from construction sites occurred during concrete operations and 7 of those incidents resulted in an injury or fatality. In 2007, demolition operations accounted for 49 incidents, resulting in 7 injuries and 3 fatalities.
The safety control number will enable the Department to track the performance of all general contractors and concrete and demolition subcontractors in order to identify those with patterns of non-compliance and poor safety records over time. General contractors with unacceptable safety records will have their safety control number suspended or revoked.
- Require Concrete Site Safety Managers on Job Sites.
Similar to what the new NYC Construction Codes require for demolition and high-rise construction operations, this legislation would require a licensed individual to continually monitor concrete operations for compliance with safe practices and building regulations.
To obtain a license as a Concrete Site Safety Manager, candidates would be required to pass a background check to demonstrate adequate experience and undergo extensive training. The Concrete Site Safety Manager would have to be available to the Buildings Department at all times, and along with the contractor, would be issued violations with escalating penalties for safety infractions related to concrete work.
- Enable the Buildings Department to Assign a Project Safety Monitor to Jobs with Multiple Immediately Hazardous Safety Violations, or Otherwise Poor Safety Records.
Immediately hazardous safety violations indicate that contractors are not making public and worker safety their highest priority. This legislation would require contractors to report that they are in compliance with the law within 24 hours of receiving an “Immediately Hazardous violation” from the Buildings Department, or that steps are being taken to correct the violation within a defined time period.
Failure to provide this report will result in a civil penalty of up to $5,000. The Department will re-inspect any sites that fail to report and will conduct random audits of sites where violations have reportedly been corrected.
- Classify Certain Housekeeping Violations as Immediately Hazardous. Poor site maintenance-loose and excess material and debris, inadequate safety netting, and tripping hazards-pose serious threats to public and worker safety. This legislation will enable Buildings Inspectors to write violations related to “housekeeping,” or job site maintenance, as Immediately Hazardous, which will carry penalties as high as $25,000.
Classifying housekeeping violations in this way will create strong financial incentives for contractors to take housekeeping seriously, thereby limiting the possibility of debris falling and preventing serious obstructions to first responders, such as the blockage of adequate means of egress.
- Enhance the Requirements of Mandatory Site-Specific Safety Plans for any Project that Requires a Site-Safety Manager. Contractors pulling permits for construction projects requiring the presence of a site safety manager currently must submit a site-specific safety plan that addresses safety issues.
DOB will enhance these requirements to include provisions for a safety orientation program for new workers, provisions for weekly tool box talks devoted to safety matters, and provisions for specific safety meetings before undertaking unusually hazardous work.
Workers Performing Crane Operations Will Be Required to Undergo More Safety Training
The Buildings Department continues its analysis of cranes and other high-risk construction operations under a $4 million emergency contract announced on April 23. As the Department works with the technical engineers retained under the contract, the three legislative proposals described below take steps to improve crane safety.
- Mandate a Safety Meeting Prior to the Erecting, Jumping or Dismantling a Crane. The legislation will require the general contractor to hold a safety coordination meeting with the responsible parties – the crane engineer, the master or tower rigger, the crane site safety coordinator, and the site safety manager – to review the rigging to be used and the sequence of operations and procedures that will be followed during the installation and dismantling (including jumping) of tower cranes.
Safety meetings with the master or tower rigger, crane site safety coordinator, site safety manager, crane operator and oiler, jumping crew and flagmen/communications personnel must also be held before each subsequent jump to inspect the equipment, verify the training of all workers, and confirm the procedures and practices that will be followed. Notification of the safety coordination meeting and all safety meetings must be made to the Buildings Department at least 48 hours in advance of the meetings, and a log of all meetings must be kept on site and available to the Department at all times.
In addition, the crane engineer must submit plans and specifications to the Department prior to the erection, dismantling or jumping of a tower crane, inspect the crane installation prior to each jump, and certify to the Buildings Department that the crane is installed in accordance the approved plans and there are no hazardous conditions present.
- Mandate More Training for Workers Performing Rigging Operations. The design and structure of tower cranes like the one that became detached from a new building under construction on East 51st Street and collapsed onto nearby buildings on March 15th require careful attention from experienced workers.
This legislation will require workers to complete a minimum 30-hour safety training course offered by an approved training provider before they partake in rigging operations, including the erection and dismantling (including jumping) of a crane.
Workers who have completed the initial training will have to pass an 8-hour refresher course every three years. In addition, the master or tower rigger-the individual who is ultimately responsible for crane safety on the job site-must certify to the Buildings Department that the crew members partaking in the rigging operations have completed training specific to that job site.
- Restrict the Use of Nylon Slings. This legislation will codify recently-issued guidance that prohibits the use of nylon slings except where a manufacturer’s manual “specifically states or recommends that nylon slings be used” and, when the use of nylon slings is permitted, they can only be used if “softening mechanisms have been applied to all sharp edges.”
Increasing Tools to Enhance Structural Safety The legislative proposals will enhance the City’s oversight of private properties by requiring property owners to file maintenance reports on their retaining walls and vacant buildings.
- Require Owners of Vacant and Structurally Compromised Buildings to Report Unsafe Conditions. Under this new legislation, building owners who fail to file the engineering reports would be subject to violations with penalties up to $5,000. For those owners who continuously fail file the engineering reports, the City would inspect the buildings and perform any emergency work at the owner’s expense.
- Require Owners to Perform Periodic Inspections of Retaining Walls. This legislation would reinforce private-property owners’ responsibility to maintain their retaining walls fronting public areas by imposing cyclical inspection requirements.
Under this new legislation, building owners who fail to perform the maintenance inspections would be subject to violations with penalties starting at $800 and escalating to $10,000.
- Require Administrative Changes to Enhance Safety and Public Accountability
The proposals below enable the Department to crack down on repeat offenders with referrals to the State Department of Education, which has the authority to suspend or revoke professional licenses. These proposals will also require more accountability and the flexibility to hire an experienced manager to head the agency.
– Require Notification to State of Disciplinary Action Against Licensed Architects and Engineer.
– Annual Report on Injuries and Fatalities.
– Change the Licensing Qualifications for the Commissioner.
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