Though it has allowed construction projects to largely resume, the city of New York is actively seeking out crews that are violating the city's strict orders for protocols that will help prevent spread of COVID-19. To do so, it is relying on site visits by inspectors as well as a complaint phone line that people can contact to report unsafe working conditions.
From an exclusive interview with the New York City Department of Buildings, Construction Dive reports that during its first five days of actively enforcing new COVID-19 safety protocols, the Department of Buildings (DOB) issued 88 citations, including 41 stop-work orders, at construction sites throughout the city.
According to the article, the DOB used Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, which integrates compliance data with interactive mapping tools, to efficiently route hundreds of inspectors to each of the city’s 40,000 jobsites multiple times since the pandemic began, often at the request of citizens who reported potential violations. New York City residents lodged 6,127 complaints against contractors for potential COVID-19 jobsite safety protocol violations since March 30, using the city’s nonemergency 311 phone system, the DOB spokesperson told Construction Dive.
Contractors were allowed to resume work on nonessential projects in New York on June 8 after they had been shut down during the previous two months. There is a strict set of operational rules that firms must follow for health and safety, including a new set of guidelines that construction companies must follow with regard to the spread of the coronavirus. In early June, inspectors began visiting jobsites and issuing warnings when they found violations, giving contractors a grace period of several weeks to have systems in place that followed the DOB regulations.
On July 8, however, inspectors began issuing citations instead of warnings, with a first offense costing $5,000 and subsequent violations costing $10,000 each. The DOB says it issued just short of 90 citations during the first week of enforcement.
Construction Dive says the infractions included:
- Too many workers riding hoists together.
- Small spaces for ingress or egress that forced workers to be in close contact while entering or leaving a site, such as stairways.
- Large gatherings at lunchtime or during tool talk meetings.
- Inadequate logs and recordkeeping on worker interactions (to be used for contact tracing later if someone becomes ill).
- Insufficient tracking of onsite cleaning.
DOB officials told Construction Dive that reports of violations came from neighbors of jobsites as well as constructon workers themselves who were working on a jobsite they felt was unsafe because rules were not being followed.