Days after a crane collapsed at a construction site in Manhattan, the second in as many months, New York City officials proposed a legislative agenda that would empower the city’s Dept. of Buildings with additional oversight and enforcement capabilities to improve safety at construction job sites, especially during high-risk operations.

Representatives from labor and management indicated support for the plan and attended a press conference June 4 at City Hall with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

If the plan is adopted, all general contractors and concrete and demolition subcontractors would have to obtain a buildings department safety control number before starting any work requiring a permit. The department would be able to suspend the safety control number of contractors with an unacceptable record, subsequently preventing repeat offenders of safety laws from doing business in the city. The department will consult with industry to develop evaluation criteria.

The proposed legislation also gives the department power to assign a project safety monitor to sites with poor safety records. The city will hire the safety manager and be reimbursed by the contractor or owner prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

The safety plan contains specific provisions related to concrete construction, demolition and cranes.         

Under the plan, licensed site safety managers would continually oversee concrete operations. Poor site maintenance, such as loose or excess material and debris, inadequate safety netting and other threats, would be cited as an immediate hazard with a penalty of $25,000. On any project requiring a site-safety manager, the contractor will be required to submit a site-specific safety plan with provisions for a safety orientation, weekly safety talks, and safety meetings before undertaking hazardous tasks.

The proposal also increases training and other safety requirements governing crane operations. One requirement would be mandatory safety meetings before crane erection, jumping or dismantling. Employers would have to send crew members to a 30-hour safety course before that employee participates in rigging operations. The proposed legislation also would prohibit the use of nylon slings, except when the manufacturer specifically states one is to be used. In those cases, the slings can be employed only with softening mechanisms on all sharp edges.

City officials also propose enhanced oversight of vacant and structurally compromised buildings and inspections of retaining walls; notification by the department to the state of any disciplinary action against architects or engineers; annual reports by the department of construction-related injuries and falls; and a requirement that the commissioner be a registered architect or licensed engineer.

City officials had previously sought to appoint professionals other than licensed engineers or architects to the commissioner’s job.