Saturday, November 04, 2006

NY City Plagued By Fatal Falls

With the death of Klever Ramiro Jara in a 17 story fall from a scaffold earlier this week, there have now been 17 fatal falls in New York city in the past year. Most of the workers killed in New York construction accidents have been immigrants.
Officials said the employee in yesterday's accident was moving between two scaffoldings about 25 feet apart that were attached to a building on Fifth Avenue at West 17th Street. Officials said around 8:45 a.m., the employee, Klever Ramiro Jara, 25, of Brooklyn, unclipped his harness and was walking on a building ledge when he apparently fell.
In response to Jara's death, the city has formed a task force to improve fall safety for construction workers.
The 28-member task force will develop a policy for safety enforcement, worker training and oversight by the middle of next month, said Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster.
In August, New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi announced that following an audit by his office, the New York City Department of Buildings had
increased inspections and revamped or instituted new databases to improve its oversight over the issuance and monitoring of permits for cranes, derricks and scaffolds to maintain public safety
The results of the audit were pretty disturbing:
Auditors made random unannounced site visits in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens during August and September 2005 to observe cranes and scaffolds and determine if valid permits were in place. Auditors determined that there was no valid permit on record for 43 of 144 pieces of equipment (30 percent), including 41 of 104 scaffolds (39 percent) and 2 of 40 cranes (5 percent).

Department of Buildings inspectors followed up auditors’ findings by visiting the sites where the 43 equipment items without valid permits were located. The inspectors issued Stop Work Orders (SWO) at five of the sites, where seven scaffolds were still operating without permits. Auditors later visited these five sites and found that work continued at three of them, despite the SWO.

In late September and early October 2005, auditors visited 78 sites where scaffolding permits had expired between August 1 and September 12, 2005. At 12 of the 78 sites (15 percent) scaffolding was still present, and work was underway at four of those 12 sites.
It's not yet clear whether Jara's employer had a valid permit.

According to the NY Times, things are getting so bad that even employers are getting fed up:
Louis J. Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, which represents about 1,500 construction managers, contractors and subcontractors, said the task force needed to find ways to create and enforce strict universal standards for all builders, and to punish violators.

“Fines are not enough,” he said. “They should be put out of business."
And then there was this stupid statement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg:
"People that work in this city deserve to have a safe workplace,” he said. “Now, some of the jobs are just inherently dangerous — you’re up there in scaffolding; you know, to say, ‘Well, let’s put it inside,’ you can’t do. But we’ll do everything we can to make them safe.
Shrugging you shoulders and saying a job's "inherently dangerous" is one step away from sayting "shit happens." No one's saying that people shouldn't work on scaffolds. It can be done safely -- it just takes equipment, training and the good management to make sure it gets done.