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New York City Shuts Down 23% More Building Projects in 2016

By Sally Murdoch

Skyscraper construction worker in New York City

This week the building trade magazine site For Construction Pros brought an interesting topic to the table via Politico regarding safety and the building boom of New York City. Although the Big Apple has entered a construction renaissance, it’s also coming at a great safety cost with a record number of stop-work orders imposed due to unsafe working conditions and worker fatalities. New York’s Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued “4,580 stop-work orders in New York City during the first six months of 2016. That's a 23% increase compared to the 3,738 stop-work orders issued during the same period in 2015. That's also a 70% increase between 2012 and 2016.”

A little backstory; a New York Times article from November 2015, by David W Chen showed that, “New York City is experiencing a building boom that has transformed barren blocks and led to a frenzy of construction on commercial and residential buildings across all five boroughs. But that activity has come at a sobering cost: In the last two years, the number of workers hurt and killed in construction accidents has surged.”

"The rise in deaths and injuries — mostly among undocumented immigrant laborers — far exceeds the rate of new construction over the same period. It is stark evidence of the view increasingly held by safety inspectors, government officials and prosecutors, that safety measures at these job sites are woefully inadequate.”

Beefing Up Enforcement to Enhance Security

In February 2016, the writing in NYC was on the wall as the DOB issued a joint statement with the NYC Mayor’s office noting that construction surged over 300% since 2009, leading to an increase in preventable construction-related injuries and fatalities. As well as mandating that construction superintendents must be at every project under ten stories, they also upped fines, quadrupling the penalties for serious construction-safety lapses. They also stated they would perform more than 1,500 enforcement sweeps, and “require new supervision at construction sites citywide to protect workers and the public amid the record building boom.”

As added measures, and to “make sure builders cannot profit by skirting safety rules,” the City:

  • Raised penalties for serious safety lapses from $2,400 to $10,000
  • Raised the penalty for lacking a construction superintendent from $5,000 to a maximum of $25,000
  • Issued stop-work orders and penalties from $5,000 to $25,000 for repeat infractions or other proactive enforcement measures, as necessary
  • Hired 100 new enforcement inspectors as part of the $120 million modernization outlined in its Building One City plan

“This proactive stance is a good sign for safety across the board in New York City building projects, and it's encouraging to see these efforts to combine the interests of worker safety with the power of a strong building boom,” said Compliance Specialist Brian McFadden. “At the same time, the most common violations mentioned in Politico’s article were missing guard rails and exposed holes, and those should have been easy fixes. Clearly, some organizations still aren't getting the message that lives are at stake, and the penalties will probably continue.”

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Graphic Products carries DuraLabel Sign and Label Printers which can produce customized signs and labels to keep sites safe with clear visual communication in mulitple languages. We also offer a host of construction safety articles and downloadable fall prevention infographics to quickly illustrate impending fall hazards for crews and their supervisors.