NYC quadruples penalties, ramps up scrutiny of construction site safety violations

Dive Brief:

  • New York City Maybor Bill de Blasio announced Friday the city will quadruple penalties for serious construction site safety violations, mandate new supervision at construction sites, and start a safety sweep of more than 1,500 work sites throughout New York.
  • The heightened focus on construction safety issues comes one week after a crane collapsed in New York City, killing one pedestrian and injuring three others. The incident, which is still under investigation, also resulted in de Blasio implementing a new, four-point construction crane safety plan.
  • The new safety provisions are included in a $120 million Department of Buildings effort to increase oversight at high-risk sites. Under the new measure, safety violation penalties will go from $2,400 to $10,000, and penalties for sites without a required construction superintendent will go from $5,000 to $25,000. 

Dive Insight:

New York City is in the midst of a building boom, as construction in the city has skyrocketed 329% since 2009, according to de Blasio. However, that surge in construction has also brought a rise in construction site injuries and deaths, as job site accidents rose 90% between 2009 and 2015  from 218 to 433  according to CBS New York.

And in a review of every construction fatality in the last two years, an in-depth New York Times investigation in November found that safety measures were inadequate on many of the construction sites where deaths occurred and that immigrants represented a disproportionate percentage of workers killed. 

Keeping both workers and the public safe in the midst of a construction boom is a difficult task for cities and construction companies, and the de Blasio administration is hoping these most recent provisions will reverse the staggering increase in recent construction site accidents.

"No building is worth a person’s life. We have a responsibility to keep the men and women who are building New York City safe," de Blasio said during the announcement Friday. "We are ramping up inspections and oversight to make sure that our workers have added protections. We do not accept any loss of life in this business as inevitable or acceptable."

In addition to the new penalties and oversight measures, the Manhattan District Attorney launched a construction task force last summer with the goal of rooting out corruption in the industry, as well as chronic safety violators. In addition, across the U.S., OSHA fines are set to rise as much as 80% this year to align with increases in the Consumer Price Index.

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