Tuesday, February 5, 2008

City Seeking Tougher Rules for High-Rise Construction – 78% of the Worker Fatalities Nonunion Contractors

By DIANE CARDWELL The New York Times

The city’s Buildings Department, moving to shore up safety on construction sites after a worker fell 42 stories to his death last month, proposed new regulations on Monday that would require general contractors and concrete operators to register with the city.

The regulations, which administration officials have begun developing with the City Council, would also require special safety managers at more construction sites as well as specifically for concrete.

“Concrete operations are extremely specialized and require a precise coordination of large numbers of workers,” Patricia J. Lancaster, the commissioner of the Buildings Department, said before the Housing and Buildings Committee of the City Council. “Registration will enable us to better ensure that operations are code compliant, that safety violations are attended to and fines paid, and that recalcitrant actors come into compliance before registration is renewed.”

Under Ms. Lancaster’s proposal, general contractors, as well as those working with concrete, would have to register with the Buildings Department to obtain construction permits. The system would allow the department to use the contractors’ record of compliance with safety and building code provisions in issuing or denying permits and to demand that fines be paid before registrations are renewed.

In addition, the proposal would require that safety managers be present at all buildings at least 10 stories, or 150 feet, high. The current regulations require safety managers for buildings at least 15 stories, or 200 feet, high. Concrete contractors would also have to designate a separate safety manager for the concrete operations.

Although Buildings Department officials say they have been looking into the safety of concrete operations since November, that push intensified after Yuriy Vanchytskyy plunged to his death on Jan. 14, because wood forms used to hold wet concrete apparently collapsed during construction on the Trump SoHo hotel.

According to department data, the death was the third since 2006 related to concrete operations on a high-rise site. Sixteen people have been injured during such operations in the past two years, and 61 percent of the 41 occurrences in which material fell from high-rise sites last year was related to concrete, according to the department.

The proposal, said Raymond McGuire, managing director of the Contractors Association of Greater New York, a trade group, was developed in consultation with the construction and concrete industries and represents a consensus view.

“I think the commissioner’s proposals make a lot of sense,” he said. “We approve of what she’s trying to do.”

Speaker Christine C. Quinn of the City Council echoed that view, calling the suggestions “a very good and solid, no pun intended, first step.” But, she added, “they’re not everything we need to do,” saying that the city also needed to look more closely at regulating smaller construction sites that often use nonunion labor, making them more difficult to track.

Although there were signs that deaths and accidents on low-rise buildings were on the decline, she said, it was unclear that legislators really had a handle on “enough of what’s going on.”

According to statistics presented at the hearing by Louis J. Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers Association, an average of 78 percent of the worker fatalities each year between October 2004 and September 2007 were on projects built by nonunion contractors.

1 comment:

  1. This law should help fight the non-union guys


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