Last month, a major safety sweep conducted by the offices of the New York City buildings commissioner uncovered a disturbing amount of violations at construction and worksites around the city. Officials visited 90 jobsites as part of the 2013 safety sting and were shocked to discover that the majority of the jobsites had at least one safety violation while multiple violations were spotted at several others.
The sting (codenamed Operation Low Rise) was highlighted by the buildings commissioner as part of New York's commitment to the ninth Annual Construction Safety Week. The sweep resulted in over 900 individual violations and a total of nearly $1 million dollars in fines. In addition, 12%of the jobsites were issued stop work orders until further investigations could be made and serious safety violations were addressed. Well over 1/3 of those stop work orders (34 of them) were full stop orders while the remaining 75 were partial stop orders.
In a statement to the press, Commissioner LiMandri reiterated the city's commitment to worker safety and stated that "as development increases across the City, so must our focus on construction safety. Any construction operation presents certain risks, and we are working closely with industry members to mitigate those risks so every worker goes home safely at the end of each shift."
The cited violations included missing safety fences, improper permitting, working without permits, and failure to provide protection for adjoining buildings.
One of the main focuses of the inspection was to spot and eliminate the use of lightweight steel supports (notoriously dangerous C-joists). The joists were improperly installed at a jobsite last year and were responsible for the horrific death of two construction workers. New safety information regarding the unsafe steel was handed out during the inspection and translated into multiple languages so non-English speaking workers could be made aware of the danger. (View an example of this documentation here.)
This proactive approach to workplace safety is the latest in an attempt to stem the increase of construction accidents across the city. The pressure to build quickly and cheaply often leads to dangerous omission of proper safety precautions which all too often lead to the serious injuries and deaths of unsuspecting workers. Many of these deaths involved falls from heights which should have been safeguarded or crane accidents involving improperly secured loads. Perhaps the fear of paralyzing and costly stop work orders will make contractors think twice about bending rules put in place to protect their employees.