To determine if the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) adequately monitors New York City (NYC) building construction sites to ensure compliance with applicable codes, laws, and rules for construction site safety. The audit covered the period from January 2018 through December 2021.
About the Program
DOB is responsible for regulating the safe and lawful use of more than 1 million buildings and construction sites in NYC through enforcement of, among other laws and rules, the NYC Building Code (Building Code). This requires construction managers, contractors, and subcontractors engaged in construction or demolition operations to institute and maintain safety measures necessary to safeguard the public and property. DOB inspectors respond to incidents and complaints and perform inspections to enforce compliance.
As the DOB website states, “construction is a dangerous business.” From 2018 through 2020, 26% of all worker deaths in NYC were construction related. DOB reported that 2,003 building constructionrelated incidents occurred between January 1, 2018 and May 15, 2021. These incidents resulted in 36 fatalities and 2,066 injuries; 75% of the fatalities occurred in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
We found DOB’s oversight of building construction sites, including construction site inspections and safety, and enforcement activity need to be improved. Such oversight and enforcement seek to address safety issues that could potentially result in fatalities, personal injury, and property damage. Between June 10, 2021 and August 31, 2021, we visited 43 construction sites located in all five boroughs of NYC. Eighteen of these sites were actively under construction at the time of our visits, and 16 of the 18 sites (89%) had a total of 77 safety issues, including: not having a site safety manager; missing or incomplete site safety logs and daily inspection records; and no documentation of workers completing required site safety training or attending mandatory safety meetings. While DOB followed up and issued summonses at some of these sites, generally, it does not effectively prioritize which sites are inspected.
Generally, DOB inspections were performed after an incident had occurred or a complaint had been received, even though its prior enforcement actions and contractors’ safety history are data sets that could be used to help identify high-risk construction sites. In addition, DOB’s enforcement activities provide limited assurance that immediately hazardous conditions identified by DOB are addressed in a timely manner. When DOB inspectors issue a summons for an immediately hazardous condition, the building owner or contractor must correct the condition immediately. However, DOB did not issue a violation for failure to timely certify correction for 10,890 (60%) of the 18,072 summonses issued for immediately hazardous conditions that were open for more than 30 days.
Lastly, DOB has inadequate procedures to identify incidents and report injuries and fatalities at building construction sites. We found that DOB was not always aware of building construction-related incidents; three fatalities and six injuries reported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) between January 2018 and May 2021 were not reported by DOB.
- Create and implement policies and procedures to issue DOB Violations for failure to certify corrections of immediately hazardous conditions in a timely manner.
- Use DOB inspection, violation, and accident data as well as publicly available data to identify high-risk contractors and sites to proactively inspect.
- Develop and implement procedures, including coordinating with OSHA and other relevant agencies, to identify building construction site incidents.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director:Kenrick Sifontes
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236