Creating a new “culture of accountability” is why work at 322 construction sites—and counting—across all five New York City boroughs were shut down over risky conditions last month, the city buildings department chief told ENR on June 30.
The Dept. of Buildings began new “zero tolerance” safety sweeps June 1. According to the agency, the crackdown is in response to seven construction site deaths so far this year, with three occurring within two weeks in May.
The agency also released last month a new construction safety report, with new analysis on site conditions that led to fatal or near fatal outcomes between 2018 and 2020.. The analysis is the first of its kind, Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca said, adding she hopes the report will be issued annually.
"We are creating a culture of accountability,” she said, claiming the ongoing sweeps will help contractors understand the need for a dedicated supervisor on site.
“It means more dedicated personnel on more sites," the commissioner said. "Increasing supervision and dedicated supervision is critical in moving this industry forward.”
The sites closed so far have been shut down with full and partial stop-work orders citing more than 1,129 violations for safety issues and code non-compliance issues, according to the department.
During the sweeps, its inspectors issued enforcement actions on safety violations and shut down sites that show serious safety lapses. Contractors in violation face penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation.
“Every contractor should feel obligated to make sure their workers go home safe to their families,” La Rocca said.
Among deaths so far this year was a 32-year-old Queens worker who fell down an elevator shaft on May 22 on the sixth floor of a Long Island City building; and a 49-year-old worker who fell from the roof of a Brooklyn retail bank project on May 27.
According to the department report, there were 24 construction related deaths in 2018 and 2019, split evenly between the two years, with 761 injuries in 2018 and 761 reported the following year. In 2020, there were 502 injuries on construction sites and seven building construction site deaths.
La Rocca said the figures, which include a 34% drop in injuries between 2018 and 2020, indicated that workers are safer where site safety training is ongoing.