New safety campaign educates workers on best practices and redoubles enforcement efforts by adding inspection sweeps to address unsafe façades
New York:___ The Department of Buildings today announced the launch of a seven-week façade and scaffold safety blitz. This campaign, which kicked off this month, includes direct educational outreach to construction workers and industry professionals on scaffold safety, as well as inspection sweeps on façade work sites across the five boroughs. Our inspectors will also now provide a detailed check list to construction contractors for any deficiencies found with their scaffolding set up following required corner/angle scaffold safety inspections. This safety campaign builds upon DOB’s efforts, announced in December of 2019, to strengthen our existing Façade Inspection & Safety Program (FISP) program, which aims to improve work site safety, and hold bad actors accountable for not properly maintaining their buildings’ façades.
“We are constantly pushing to establish a culture of safety in this industry,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “Through a combination of worker engagement and aggressive enforcement sweeps, our inspection teams will be out in force, sending a clear message that we will not tolerate those who put the safety of our fellow New Yorkers at risk.”
DOB’s new safety campaign includes outreach directly to workers at 1,100 active construction sites across the City who are engaging in façade work. This part of the campaign is in response to the tragic death of a construction worker performing façade work in Midtown Manhattan last summer and other similar incidents. This outreach will include:
- DOB inspectors and community engagement staff distributing façade work safety information during field inspections of façade work sites;
- Direct mailings of façade construction safety information to all contractors performing façade construction work in New York City;
- Direct mailings to 500 Qualified Exterior Wall Inspectors (QEWIs), who are industry professionals that perform façade inspections in New York City;
- Direct mailings to our more than 100 Department-approved course providers who provide worker safety training.
To introduce this educational outreach campaign, DOB issued its first-ever Worker Alert. The Worker Alert, directed towards construction workers, provides practical situational safety information and straightforward guidance for those performing façade work.
In addition to the educational outreach, the façade and scaffold safety blitz will include inspection enforcement sweeps throughout the city. DOB inspectors will do a proactive sweep of 1,100 work sites permitted to do façade repairs to verify site safety and compliance with City regulations. These inspections will be performed at buildings of all sizes, including:
- A sweep of approximately 300 buildings 6 stories and under;
- A sweep of around 500 buildings between 7 and 14 stories;
- And, a sweep of about 300 tall buildings over 15-stories.
Apart from this proactive enforcement sweep, DOB’s Façade Unit performs regular sweeps to ensure that all buildings that have filed unsafe façade inspection reports have installed public protection, where needed. The Façade Unit also performs Corner/Angle Scaffold inspections in order to facilitate safe and proper scaffold installation as well as code compliance. We will now also be providing contractors with a checklist of any deficiencies found with regard to scaffolding set up following these inspections.
In recent years, the Department has made substantial changes to strengthen our existing Façade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), including doubling the size of our Façade Inspection unit, requiring more hands-on inspections of buildings over six stories tall, increasing the frequency of DOB follow up inspections of known unsafe façades, and greatly increasing penalties to building owners for non-compliance.
“When people walk our streets, they have a reasonable assumption that they are safe from danger,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings. “The crane collapse in Williamsburg last week highlights the need for continued improvements to construction safety in the city. We need to modernize our approach to building inspections which is why I introduced a bill in 2020 to require the Buildings Department to study whether drones would be more effective at keeping pedestrians safe than current inspection methods. We need to use all tools at our disposal, so I want to commend the DOB for launching a façade and scaffold safety blitz. Safe construction practices are good for developers and all New Yorkers.”
“The BTEA, and its 1,100 contractor members, emphasize safety above all else. We strive for the full buy-in, from our management and workforce on the value of the zero tolerance safety culture. We applaud DOB on its continuing efforts to educate workers on the value of safety, and stand ready to work hand in hand to with the Department on this important initiative,” said Louis J. Coletti, President and CEO, Building Trades Employers Association.
“We are proud to work with the Department of Buildings on ways to improve safety on and around façade restoration sites,” said Veronika Sikorski, President of the NYC Special Riggers Association. “We applaud DOB for taking the steps necessary to educate workers, reinforce the importance of safety on façade jobs and maintain high standards for all façade restoration professionals. These measures save lives.”
“The consulting engineering industry applauds the NYC Department of Building’s new campaign to strengthen the Façade Inspection & Safety Program. We look forward to continuing the engineering industry’s partnership with DOB to promote safety in the building sector,” said Jay Simson, President & CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC New York).
“Strict safety measures, when followed, prevent unnecessary accidents and tragic fatalities,” said Jim Bifulco, President of the Construction Safety Advisory Committee of NY. “Over the years, we have seen far too many avoidable incidents that have changed the lives of many forever. DOB’s actions to re-enforce the need for strict compliance of safety measures is to be commended. As Site Safety Professionals, we will continue to do our part to promote safety and thank the DOB for its efforts and continued partnership on this mission. “
“Public safety is essential to keeping workers and everyday New Yorkers safe,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). “We applaud the New York City Department of Buildings for prioritizing these important inspections.”