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High Risk Construction Safety

For Immediate Release
February 3, 2009


Increase in Construction Accidents Prompted Comprehensive Review of Crane, Hoist, Excavation and Concrete Operations

Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced a series of changes in the way high-risk construction will be regulated and carried out in New York City. These changes are based on 41 recommendations developed during the unprecedented $4 million study of crane, hoist, excavation, and concrete operations launched last year in response to an increase in construction accidents.

The recommendations target a wide range of topics - from crane design standards to engineering plans for excavation sites to inspection protocols and training - and are designed to strengthen the safety and oversight of high-risk construction on job sites in New York City. The Department of Buildings (DOB) has already begun to implement some of the recommendations and will work with stakeholders and others to implement all 41 recommendations in the coming months. Commissioner LiMandri announced the results of the High-Risk Construction Oversight (HRCO) study earlier today at McGraw-Hill Construction's BuildSafe New York conference.

"This groundbreaking study is the type of critical evaluation that is necessary to ensure a new standard of safety is implemented across the City, one that the public demands and deserves," said Commissioner LiMandri. "The city's economy depends on construction, and New Yorkers are depending on us to make that construction safe. After an exhaustive review of high-risk construction, we identified 41 specific ways that will help prevent accidents and raise accountability across the board."

As part of the High-Risk Construction Oversight study, more than 30 engineering experts from CTL Engineers and Construction Technology Consultants, P.C. (CTL) conducted a top-to-bottom review of the regulations, materials, processes, and systems employed during high-risk construction. The 41 recommendations announced today are based on information gathered during nearly 600 job site visits and 12 outreach meetings with more than 95 stakeholder organizations, as well as the DOB safety conferences with crane manufacturers and building officials from cities around the world.

"It is universally agreed that public and worker safety is of paramount concern during construction work," said CTL President Gene Corley. "Safety is critical in dense, urban environments, and the ever-advancing scale, pace, and complexity of construction technology has put current industry practices and regulatory controls to the test.  This is underscored by nothing so much as the recent spate of construction crane accidents in the US and abroad."

The recommendations will be outlined in a comprehensive report that will be presented to Commissioner LiMandri later this month. The 41 recommendations fall into three groups involving cranes and hoists, excavation, and concrete operations.

Crane & Hoist Operations

DOB regulates the design, installation, and safe operation of cranes and hoists (also known as construction elevators). There are approximately 50 tower cranes, 1,250 mobile cranes, and 540 hoists approved for use across the five boroughs, and last year's crane accidents in Manhattan and other cities around the world demonstrated the importance of oversight and coordination of crane and hoist operations.

As part of the HRCO study, CTL conducted 269 inspections of cranes and hoists, gathered input from 10 major crane manufacturers of tower and mobile cranes, and interviewed hundreds of individuals who own, rent and work with cranes and hoists. This information was used to develop 22 specific recommendations to strengthen inspection protocols, enhance equipment and performance standards, improve field operations, and raise maintenance and repair standards for cranes and hoists. The recommendations related to crane operations and inspections are:

  1. Tracking System for Critical Crane Parts. Establish procedures to track critical components of tower cranes, including but not limited to the turntable, a-frame, machine deck, climbing frame, and basic boom section.

  2. Comprehensive Inspections of Cranes. Require Qualified Inspectors as defined by OSHA to register with the DOB in order to inspect tower, mobile, and other cranes.

  3. Technical Oversight of Crane Erection, Dismantling, and Jumping. Require a manufacturer's or qualified owner's representative to provide expert technical assistance to the rigging team during all erection, dismantling, and jumping operations of tower cranes.

  4. Strict Adherence to Crane Load Test Protocols. Require use of freely-suspended weights during Load Tests, as well as line pull, gear, and moment tests for fixed and luffing boom cranes, all in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.

  5. Technical Oversight of Tower Crane Tie-Ins. Require the engineer of record or an engineer acceptable to the DOB to certify that the building can withstand the loads imposed by the crane.

  6. Identification System for Tower Cranes Counterweights. Require counterweight information to be clearly stenciled on the weights and visible after installation. Require configuration information to be available on the job sites and in the Crane Notice (CN) drawings.

  7. More Technical Oversight of Tower Crane Foundations. Require a NYS licensed engineer to provide design drawings for the tower crane foundation and require notification to DOB prior to pouring the foundation. Require the engineer of record to conduct a special inspection of the tower crane foundation before and after the concrete is poured.

  8. Stronger Requirements for Bolted Connections. Require cleaning and inspection of bolts between uses, torque value to be available on site, and the replacement of loose or damaged turn table bolts. Require ultrasonic or other non-destructive testing for the turntable and tower mast bolts on a periodic basis.

The recommendations related to enhancing crane equipment and performance standards are:

  1. Enhanced Standards for Crane Prototype Application. Create designation of Approved Manufacturers by satisfaction of enhanced criteria, including local representation, a provision of notifications to DOB and owners, and design and manufacturing standards. Makes and models of cranes from Approved Manufacturers would be subject to these enhanced standards before they are approved to be used in New York.

  2. Safety Requirements for Older Equipment. Older cranes and cranes not supported by the manufacturer should be subject to additional inspection and maintenance requirements.

  3. New Standards for Crane Maintenance and Repair. All major structural repairs should be certified by the crane owner that the work was done in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications or specifications outlined by a NYS licensed engineer acceptable to the DOB.

The recommendations related to DOB operations and procedures are:

  1. More Transparent Operations. Make inspection, plan exam and enforcement information from the DOB Cranes & Derricks Unit available on BIS Web.

  2. More Inspector Training. Enhance training programs for DOB Inspectors and Plan Examiners.

  3. New Quality Control System. Establish quality assurance procedures for the DOB to improve quality and efficiency of operations.

  4. Modernize NYC Crane Regulations.   Revise Reference Standard 19-2 governing cranes to reflect the new NYC Construction Codes, as well as the most effective and modern national standards suitable to New York City's urban environment.

  5. Formal Accident Investigation Protocols. Formalize methods and protocols for accident investigation and reporting.

The recommendations related to personnel and material hoists are:

  1. Better Record-Keeping Procedures. Require the hoist equipment user to maintain an on-site log book for hoists.

  2. Technical Oversight of Hoists. Require the engineer of record or an engineer acceptable to DOB to certify that the building can withstand the loads imposed by the hoist.

  3. Safety Procedures for Hoist Operators. Create new requirements for workers operating personnel and material hoists.

  4. Modernize NYC Hoist Regulations. Bring the Building Code in line with national standards by adopting American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 10.5.

  5. Comprehensive Inspections of Hoists. Require Qualified Inspectors as defined by OSHA to register with the DOB in order to inspect hoists.

  6. More Inspections for Hoist Components. Develop an unassembled inspection process, as well as a labeling and tracking system, for hoists to help identify equipment not fit for service.

Excavation Operations

Performed in the early stage of construction for a new building, excavation work is highly-specialized and can pose great engineering challenges in a dense environment like New York City. Every excavation site has the possibility of impacting at least three existing buildings on neighboring lots, as well as nearby public walkways and streets. Last year, the Buildings Department issued 4,300 permits for excavation work in conjunction with new buildings, meaning that approximately 13,000 neighboring buildings could have been affected. To expand oversight of excavation sites and the neighboring properties, DOB dedicated a team of Inspectors to closely monitor excavation site safety. Since it was formed in 2007, the Inspectors have conducted 5,300 inspections, resulting in 3,237 violations and 931 Stop Work Orders.

As part of the HRCO study, CTL expanded this oversight by inspecting 74 active excavation sites, reviewing 68 sets of excavation plans, and using the results to develop six recommendations to establish standards for design drawings, strengthen protections for adjacent structures, and improve the safety of work performed in the field. The recommendations related to excavation operations are:

  1. New Safety Meeting Prior to Beginning Work. Require a safety meeting be held onsite with the general contractor, designer, owner and a DOB representative to review construction plans, approved drawings, and planned safety procedures prior to issuing the permit to ensure that all requirements are met and possible problems identified.

  2. Clarify Requirements for Excavation Drawings. Create guidelines to provide the industry with clarification on the information that must be included on excavation drawings submitted to DOB

  3. New Guidelines for Monitoring of Adjacent Buildings. Create a rule clarifying what aspects of adjacent buildings need to be surveyed and photographed before excavation begins, as well as periodically throughout the excavation process.

  4. Facilitating Access to Adjacent Buildings. Pursue legislation granting the engineer of record access to neighboring structures to properly survey adjacent buildings before and during excavation work.

  5. More Review of Excavation Plans. Require DOB to review all excavation plans to ensure they meet the minimum required criteria prior to issuing a permit.

  6. New On-Site Document Requirements. Require more documents be kept on site, including but not limited to a copy of the Special Inspector's contact information and a written log detailing inspection information.

Concrete Operations

Concrete is used to build the majority of high-rise buildings in New York City, and pouring and forming the concrete often takes place at incredible heights and in open, unenclosed structures exposed to the elements. Concrete operations can lead to serious accidents when regulations and safe practices are not followed; in 2008, concrete operations led to 15 accidents and 17 injuries.

As part of the HRCO study, CTL inspected 68 sites and used the results to develop 13 recommendations to improve formwork standards, raise standards for structural designs, enhance inspections, and strengthen site safety practices.

The recommendations related to improving formwork standards are:

  1. New Safety Requirements for Concrete Formwork Design. Require essential specifications on formwork design plans certified by a NYS licensed engineer. Essential specifications include critical information necessary to carry out the concrete operation safely, such as the reshore installation sequences and schedules, and the required the number of reshored floor levels.

  2. New Standards to Safeguard Formwork against Wind. Clarify formwork wind design requirements to incorporate the latest wind design research by basing the wind design of formwork on the national standard (ASCE 7 and ASCE 37).

  3. More Technical Inspections of Formwork and Reshore Installations. Require the formwork designer to conduct regular inspections of formwork and reshore installation to ensure the work will be structurally sound and conform to essential specifications. Essential specifications include critical information necessary to carry out the concrete operation safely, such as the reshore installation sequences and schedules and the required number of reshored floor levels.

  4. Safeguards for Formwork near Building Perimeter. Require perimeter formwork decking to be positively secured against uplifting winds.

The recommendations related to raising structural design standards are:

  1. New Safety Requirements for Concrete Structural Plans. Require a NYS licensed engineer to include a minimum level of information on structural building plans submitted to DOB. Information to include more detailed design information for critical structural members, such as design forces for transfer beams.

  2. More Oversight of Concrete Structural Plans. Retain NYS licensed engineers on behalf of DOB to review each set of structural drawings submitted to DOB to ensure they provide a minimum level of details.

  3. Technical Expert Review of Concrete Structural Plans. Retain NYS licensed engineers on behalf of DOB to review structural plans to verify that the minimum level of structural information is contained on each set of structural drawings. Information to include requirements contained in American Concrete Institute (ACI) standards referenced in the new NYC Construction Codes (BC 106.7 and 1901).

  4. Auditing Peer Review Procedures on Concrete Jobs. Retain NYS licensed engineers on behalf of DOB to monitor that structural peer review conforms to the new NYC Construction Codes (Section BC 1627).

The recommendations related to enhancing inspection and the quality of concrete construction are:

  1. Photo and Video Evidence of Safe Rebar Bending and Installation. Require the Special Inspector to take photo or video of rebar bending and installation methods to demonstrate compliance with American Concrete Institute (ACI) standards.

  2. Increase DOB Inspector Training. Provide DOB Inspectors with American Concrete Institute (ACI) Special Inspector training to increase knowledge of concrete standards and best practices.

The recommendations related to strengthening site safety practices are:

  1. Safety Awareness Campaign on Fall Hazards. Implement an awareness campaign to educate construction industry and public of the dangers of fall hazards on concrete and other job sites.

  2. More Inspector Training. Increase DOB Inspector training on site safety protocols in the new NYC Construction Codes (Chapter 33 of the 2008 Building Code).

  3. Standardized Inspections of Concrete Job Sites. Establish an inspection checklist and clarify enforcement protocols for concrete job sites.

Contact:     Tony Sclafani/Kate Lindquist (212) 566-3473