NYC’s construction site inspections, enforcement inadequate, study finds

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New York Construction Report staff writer

About 90% of active New York City construction sites visited by the state comptroller’s office had safety issues, and the city’s Department of Buildings “doesn’t effectively prioritize which sites get inspected”, according to report released Sept. 1.

Officials from the state comptroller’s office visited 18 active construction sites in August 2021 and found that 16 had a total of 77 safety issues.

“As the DOB website states, construction is a dangerous business.” From 2018 through 2020, 26% of all worker deaths in NYC were construction related, the report noted.

DOB reported that 2,003 building construction related incidents occurred between January 1, 2018 and May 15, 2021, resulting in 36 fatalities and 2,066 injuries with 75% of the fatalities occurred in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Recommedations included in the report include creating and implement policies and procedures to issue DOB violations for failure to certify corrections of immediately hazardous conditions in a timely manner, using DOB inspection, violation, and accident data as well as publicly available data to identify high-risk contractors and sites to proactively inspect and implementing procedures, including coordinating with OSHA and other relevant
agencies, to identify building construction site incidents.

Those recommendations are based on the report’s key findings:

  • We found DOB’s oversight of building construction sites, including construction site inspections and safety, and enforcement activity need to be improved. Such oversight and enforcement seek to address safety issues that could potentially result in fatalities, personal injury, and property damage.
  • Between June 10, 2021 and August 31, 2021, we visited 43 construction sites located in all five boroughs of NYC. Eighteen of these sites were actively under construction at the time of our visits, and 16 of the 18 sites (89%) had a total of 77 safety issues, including: not having a site safety manager; missing or incomplete site safety logs and daily inspection records; and no documentation of workers completing required site safety training or attending mandatory safety meetings. While DOB followed
    up and issued summonses at some of these sites, generally, it does not effectively
  • Generally, DOB inspections were performed after an incident had occurred or a complaint had been received, even though its prior enforcement actions and contractors’ safety history are data sets that could be used to help identify high-risk construction sites. In addition, DOB’s enforcement activities provide limited assurance that immediately hazardous conditions identified by DOB are addressed in a timely manner.
  • When DOB inspectors issue a summons for an immediately hazardous condition,
    the building owner or contractor must correct the condition immediately. However, DOB did not issue a violation for failure to timely certify correction for 10,890 (60%) of the 18,072 summonses issued for immediately hazardous conditions that were open for more than 30 days.
  • DOB has inadequate procedures to identify incidents and report injuries and fatalities at building construction sites. We found that DOB was not always aware of building construction-related incidents; three fatalities and six injuries reported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) between January 2018 and May 2021 were not reported by DOB.

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