Surprise Inspector Visits Hand Out 11,000 Citations

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Robison Wells

New York City, which is a hotbed of construction, has a startling problem with worksite safety, and it’s only growing. In 2015, there were 472 construction-related injuries, but that number has jumped a staggering 61% to 761 last year. And the city is cracking down.

While most inspector visits, in the past, have been pre-planned, there is now an entire division (referred to by some as the SWAT team) who are full-time proactive building inspectors, making unannounced visits and slowing or halting production.

And if the numbers are anything to go by, they’re needed. In total, the team has conducted 20,166 surprise inspections of 10,256 jobsites, and they’ve issued 11,484 citations which add up to more than $15 million in fines.

The surprise inspections have been carried out by a team of 38 highly trained experts in areas such as renovations, high-rise construction, scaffolding and demolitions. Another 15 inspectors will eventually be added.

And the city says that it’s working. In the first nine months of 2019, contruction injuries fell 26%: 437 injuries versus the 590 in the same time period of 2018.

Even when inspections uncover safety violations, Jonathon Reiter, a lawyer representing construction workers said, there has to be follow up to correct them or workers still remain at risk.

“It’s such a potentially dangerous environment that it requires a daily, highly diligent approach to provide a safe environment for construction workers,” Mr. Reiter said. “That has to be part of the culture.”

“What New York’s doing,” William Strawn, a manager for San Francisco’s building inspections, said, “strikes me as a very good thing to do. With all the increase in construction activity, it’s important for building regulatory agencies to stay on top of building safety issues.”

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