The Department of Buildings (DOB) announced today the release of a new building construction safety report that provides deep insights on construction safety trends in the five boroughs over the 2019 and 2020 calendar years and examines Department initiatives that led to declines in building construction-related incidents and injuries during that time.
The report provides a first-of-its-kind analysis of major building construction incidents in the past two years that led to fatal or near fatal outcomes, with details on contributing factors that precipitated these incidents.
The report also highlights proactive and data-driven initiatives undertaken by the Department, while bringing awareness to the work of critical Department units, changes in construction safety regulations, and recent efforts to modernize the agency.
The Department also released a progress update on ongoing enforcement inspections sweeps happening now at larger construction sites across the five boroughs, an initiative launched in response to recent construction fatalities that occurred earlier this year.
“Knowledge is power, and the analysis in this report can help the construction industry keep their workers safe from hazardous site conditions,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “We know that a data driven approach and strong enforcement protocols are necessary to keep all of our fellow New Yorkers safe. We simply cannot accept business as usual when workers and the public are put at unnecessary risk.”
The two-year report delves into Department data on enforcement actions, incidents, and inspections to provide a deeper look at the factors impacting construction safety in New York City. With an eye on preventing future incidents from occurring, the report puts forward a detailed analysis of the where, when, what, and how of construction-related fatalities and injuries taking place in the city.
In the 2019 calendar year, we saw:
- 595 construction-related injuries in New York City on building work sites, down over 21% from the 761 construction-related injuries in 2018;
- Twelve building construction-related fatalities, the same amount of fatalities that we saw in 2018.
In the 2020 calendar year, we saw:
- 502 construction-related injuries in New York City on building work sites, down over 15% from the 595 construction-related injuries in 2019;
- Eight building construction-related fatalities, down from twelve fatalities that we saw in 2019.
This decline in construction-related incidents, beginning in 2019, was the first such decrease in almost ten years, and coincides with changes in Department regulations, including mandatory site safety training for workers on larger work sites, and new proactive construction inspection protocols at the Department. The report examines these recent initiatives at the Department, as well as others that have contributed to safer construction sites including the implementation of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, spearheading new construction safety legislation, and vigorous industry engagement.
In response to a recent spate of tragic construction-related fatalities that occurred earlier this year, earlier this month DOB mobilized teams of construction inspectors across the five boroughs to perform “Zero Tolerance” safety sweeps of the city’s larger and more complex construction sites. During these inspections, our inspectors have specifically been looking to ensure permitted construction projects are in full compliance with their required site safety plans, workers on site are properly using safety harnesses where required, and that any controlled access zones at the sites are properly secured to prevent falls. The Department’s “Zero Tolerance” safety sweeps are ongoing.
Since these sweeps started on June 1, 2021, the Department has already:
- Conducted “Zero Tolerance” safety inspections at over 2,100 of NYC’s larger and more complex building construction sites.
- Shut down work at 322 of these construction sites with Full and Partial Stop Work Orders, due to hazardous conditions.
- Issued over 1,129 violations for safety issues and code non-compliance issues at these work sites.
“Construction deaths are not acceptable. In order to prevent avoidable fatalities, we need better information about construction sites and we need to learn from our mistakes that put workers at risk. This new report does just that,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings. “We live in an age of information overload, so as Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee, I am very pleased to see this detailed report providing clarity of insight. We are on the path to giving construction safety the care it deserves.”
“We are very encouraged by the dramatic decline in on-the-job injuries this report shows, and we applaud the efforts of both the Department of Buildings and the construction community to keep workers safe,” said Brian Sampson, President, Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors. “Safety is everyone’s job and should always be front and center in all that we do. Commissioner La Rocca and her team are to be commended and we look forward to continuing to work with her and her office.
“BTEA Contractors have worked in conjunction with the Department of Buildings to raise the level of field safety in the construction industry and protect our workers,” said Louis J. Coletti, President and CEO, Building Trades Employers Association. “This report shows the gains we have made together.”
“AGC NYS greatly appreciates our partnership with NYC DOB in pressing for our mutual goals of improving safety on NYC Construction projects,” said Michael J. Elmendorf, President and CEO, Associated General Contractors NYS. We congratulate NYC DOB on this thorough report and safety improvements beginning in 2019. We look forward to continuing joint efforts for continued improvement.”
“This comprehensive report makes clear that construction accidents can be prevented by deploying strategies that enhance site safety awareness, establish rigorous health and safety protocols, and ensure all construction workers receive robust worksite safety training,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “Through fully understanding what works when it comes to keeping workers safe, the industry can ensure that all contractors are held accountable for operating responsible worksites and make certain that safety is the number one priority on construction projects across the five boroughs. We applaud the New York City Department of Buildings for their continued focus on the safety of workers, and we look forward to continuing to partner with DOB to ensure this welcome progress continues.”
“We welcome DOB’s ongoing focus on safety as the construction and development industries continue to play a critical role in driving the City’s economic recovery and creating good jobs for New Yorkers,” said REBNY President James Whelan. “The result of this partnership between DOB and industry leaders is an example of how the public and private sectors can work collaboratively to increase safety for workers and the public.”
“BOMA New York applauds the DOB’s detailed, data-driven analysis of construction-related injuries and deaths in 2019 and 2020,” said Hani J. Salama, BOMA New York Chair and Chief Executive Officer. “This document will allow the construction industry and others to better understand the risk their workers face, as well as current and future policies and practices that can mitigate those risks. As always, we look forward to working with the Department to make construction sites as safe as possible for workers and the general public.”
“The affordable housing industry has long prioritized safety, recognizing that it is critical to the overall success of our mission to improve the lives of all New Yorkers – whether they be working on our jobsites or living in our buildings once they’re completed,” said Jolie Milstein, President and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. “We recognize and appreciate the Department of Buildings’ efforts to improve and modernize its own operations while focusing on industry-wide initiatives that the data shows have clearly improved safety and saved lives”
“The Department of Buildings annual construction safety report provides the site safety industry with a valuable tool to assess the procedural and training changes we’ve implemented to protect workers and the public from avoidable accidents and fatalities,” said James Bifulco, President of the Construction Safety Advisory Committee of New York. “As NYC’s leading site safety management and training provider organization, CSAC commends Commissioner La Rocca and the DOB for taking yet another crucial step to saving lives.The statistics show that the work we have done together is achieving results.”
“This report provides a tremendous amount of information that is useful as we analyze health and safety among construction workers,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. “We are encouraged by the numbers indicating that construction worker fatalities are decreasing in New York City and applaud the New York City Department of Buildings on this initiative.”
“SRA applauds DOB Commissioner La Rocca for continuing to find new ways to ensure construction workers and all New Yorkers are protected from avoidable incidents that can be devastating,” said Veronika Sikorski, President of the New York City Special Riggers Association. “It is great news to see the measures taken over the last couple of years are making the construction industry as a whole safer – and preventing fatalities. As the voice of the façade restoration industry, we will continue to work closely with DOB to ensure all workers and passing pedestrians make it home safely at the end of the day.”
“Safety on all construction sites should be paramount for contractors, regulatory agencies like DOB, and most importantly the men and women working to maintain and grow our City,” said April McIver, Executive Director, The Plumbing Foundation City of New York, Inc. “No matter if the project is an 80-story new skyscraper or an alteration of a single-family home, policies highlighting safety and enforcement of those policies—especially when dealing with dangerous medical and fuel gases—are vital. The Plumbing Foundation commends DOB’s efforts to strengthen enforcement and oversight, which has contributed to a major improvement in safety in the construction industry.”
“As an Association that has been protecting the health and safety of New York City’s plumbing systems for almost 150 years, we applaud the tremendous effort by the DOB to ensure that dedicated construction workers on all construction sites are safe and have the proper and necessary training and qualifications,” said Terence O’Brien, Executive Vice President, The Association of Contracting Plumbers of the City of New York, Inc. (ACP). We will continue to do whatever is in our power, including working with DOB to make construction sites as safe as possible, to minimize injuries and fatalities.”
“MPC members provide essential plumbing services that protect the health and safety of New York City residents,” said Richard Bonelli, President of the Master Plumbers Council. “We will continue to do whatever is in our power, including working with DOB to make construction sites as safe as possible, to minimize injuries and fatalities. This exhaustive report will help everyone better understand the factors that are impacting construction safety in NYC, which is a critical first step in preventing them from happening again. We applaud Commissioner La Rocca’s proactive initiatives that have led to a substantial decline in construction related deaths and accidents.”
“The New York Electrical Contractors Association commends the Department of Buildings for publishing this report on construction safety,” said Edwin Lopez, Executive Secretary of the New York Electrical Contractors Association. “As Union Electrical Contractors working in New York City, we support and encourage all efforts to promote jobsite and worker safety. We look forward to working with the Department of Buildings to implement future legislative pursuits.”
“Safety is a vital part of daily operations in the elevator industry,” said Amy J. Blankenbiller, Executive Director of the National Elevator Industry, Inc. “We will continue to do whatever is in our power, including working with DOB to make construction sites as safe as possible, to minimize injuries and fatalities. NEII’s collaboration with the NYC DOB has advanced the innovation of important safety technologies, such as door lock monitors. In addition, we partnered to meet the challenges brought on by COVID and will continue to improve safety at job sites throughout the city. The new annual NYC Construction Safety Report will be an important tool as the elevator industry and DOB work together to create a safer New York.”
“The Construction Safety Report provides unequivocal evidence that the DOB is moving in the right direction in substantially reducing construction related accidents in the city,” said Joseph A. Pasaturo, P.E. President of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers. “Recent additional initiatives, including the Department’s draft legislation to require the licensing of general contractors, once implemented, will also lead to further progress.”
“Safeguarding life, health and the public welfare are fundamental to the engineering profession and industry,” said John Evers, incoming President and CEO of the American Council Of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC New York). “Our industry recognizes the Department for its great dedication to the critical issue of construction safety, and for its proactive efforts to keep workers and New Yorkers safe. We all must remain vigilant, and the City can count on the engineering industry as a constant partner in these efforts.”