Website Aims to Connect Developers to Safety Site Managers Amid Construct Safety Tension
Terence Cullen and Liam La Guerre Oct. 13, 2016, 10 a.m.
This current real estate boom has taken a deadly toll on the city. It seems like a month doesn’t go by without a construction worker falling to his death, getting trapped in a site collapse or falling victim to the job site in some other gruesome way.
Two construction veterans have teamed up to create SafetyCoverage.com, a website that went live today, linking developers and construction site inspectors to avoid future catastrophes amid New York City’s construction boom. Think of it as something of an Indeed or a Monster—a job site that allows companies to create profiles, list their resumes as well as credentials and job opportunities.
“If you are independent it’s hard, because you don’t know developers,” said Reagan Branch, the site’s co-founder and a construction safety manager who started her own firm three years ago. “You don’t have those contacts. So we offer that, too. It’s a scramble.”
Branch, who worked in federal and city government agencies before getting into construction, partnered on the website with Paul Charlton, a construction manager with the Bayside, Queens-based L. Riso & Sons. The pair has been working on Safety Coverage since last November, they said, and it was inspired by Branch’s quest to find work as an independent safety manager.
“When I started out, despite having a license, I couldn’t find work,” Branch said. “I wasn’t really connected.”
The service—available to safety coordinators, managers and developers—will start out with a 30-day free trial before it kicks in a monthly membership fee.
Developers and safety experts will be able to create profiles for themselves and their bona fides, much like many other job sites. The goal is to allow developers to find safety experts on either an emergency, short-term or long-term basis.
“There are jobs in the hopper right now that can’t be started, because there aren’t enough site safety managers,” said Charlton, a 20-year veteran of the industry who also owns his own construction management-consulting firm.
The duo said the site allows developers to see what type of work a coordinator or manager is doing with his licensing, and whether that’s a good fit for a particular project. A coordinator is required for a project between 10 to 14 stories tall or less than 100,000 square feet in New York City; safety managers (who require more on-site experience) are necessary for projects that are 15 stories or larger.
Launching the site comes at a time in which construction safety is under heavy scrutiny. The number of safety inspectors across the five boroughs dropped 6 percent between 2011 and 2014, according to an investigation last year by the New York Daily News. At the same time, the number of jobs filed with the New York City Department of Buildings shot up 18 percent.
And there have been plenty of fatalities, too. Earlier this week, a worker died at a job in Downtown Brooklyn; the situation is currently under investigation. The Daily News in 2015 found that 18 workers died at worksites throughout the city between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015—the most recent numbers tracked by the United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
Elected officials have ratcheted up the calls for stricter safety at work sites. In Manhattan, District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., last year launched a worker outreach effort to remind employees of safety procedures and their rights. The DA’s office has spoken with nearly 800 construction workers—many of whom are undocumented immigrants—since the beginning of this year, as CO reported in September.