Presented By: Partner Insights
Keeping Construction Safe
Now more than ever, the issue of safety on construction sites is a major concern in keeping workers and the public safe in New York City.
In May 2018, the Commercial Observer hosted an Industry Insights webinar to discuss the legislative changes impacting the City’s construction. Moderated by Frank V. Carone, Executive Partner at Abrams Fensterman, the discussion was led by Louis Coletti, President & CEO, BTEA; Timothy E. Hogan, Deputy Commissioner, Enforcement, New York City Department of Buildings (DOB); and Marianne Santarelli, CIH, CSP, Safety Director, Gilbane Building Company.
Here’s an overview of the discussion.
Coletti shared that per OSHA, 83 percent of construction fatalities and 81 percent of accidents in last five years occurred on projects managed by non-BTEA contractors. One initiative of the BTEA’s Safety Committee last year was the “BTEA Zero Recordable Injuries Policy.” The goal is zero recordable injuries.
A new law passed last year, Local Law 196, requires all workers to have a specific number of safety training hours. Despite concerns about lack of training providers, Coletti said DOB has almost 90 approved providers.
Coletti said the nonunion world’s safety record doesn’t compare to the union world because the pool of nonunion contractors who provide training is small. The new law evens the playing field by requiring union and nonunion workers alike to have safety training.
Hogan shared that there were 666 injuries and 12 fatalities in NYC construction last year. Ten of the fatalities were caused by workers not tying off, which is also the greatest contributor to injuries—28 percent.
Hogan said there was “a serious lack of prenotification and training regarding safety issues” before taking on a particular type of construction work. Oftentimes, lack of adequate supervision is to blame. Some cite cost. Hogan responds that paying for safety training is cheaper than having your site shut down after an accident or fatality. He wants every construction worker trained. Department will facilitate this by increasing compliance checks and issuing more stop-work orders for noncompliance.
He also shared that more serious injuries happen among veteran workers. He believes they are more likely to take risks and to pressure younger workers into taking similar risks. Of the 10 people who died this year in construction accidents related to not tying off, all had more than five years of experience.
Santarelli said regulations are indisputably the first step toward safer construction. She said companies need to foster relationships with safety trainers to ensure the training is complete and effective. Also, safety audits for items like fall protection must be conducted regularly. She also said expanding the potential pool of safety managers will help and advocated for increased mental health and drug and alcohol addiction resources, as these are major factors in workplace injuries. She recommended more pre-hire screening, random testing and on-site medical personnel.
Her company employs the latest in technological innovations for safety. They are currently testing Spot-r, a RFID-based system which alerts them to workers in trouble, quickening response times. They also use, and recommend, predictive software that can help determine which job sites might be dangerous before the fact and have employed advanced PPE (personal protective equipment), including Kask helmets.