In New York City, members of the construction industry are petitioning the city to loosen safety regulations they claim have halted hundreds of jobs. Currently, construction sites are required to pass a safety inspection that ensures that the safety equipment they use is up to standards. However, shortages of trained safety inspectors are reportedly causing jobs to be put on hold for months as they wait for a requisite inspection.
According to the Department of Buildings, there are only about 500 active inspectors working in the city. This is especially problematic as construction in the city has entered a boom cycle, putting a number of multi-million dollar projects on hold as inspectors work through several months worth of examinations. This has had a number of consequences for the construction industry: recently, two construction firms were hit with criminal charges after hiring hairdressers and cooks to pose as licensed inspectors.
As a result, the New York City Special Riggers Association is writing a memo with the Department of Buildings to undo code changes made in 2008 that require inspections at all construction sites, including restoration projects. Prior to the 2008 changes, inspectors were only needed to supervise new projects.
However, a number of people are concerned about the effect this could have on the workers at these sites. Jeffrey Shapiro, an attorney who represents injured construction workers, has stated that it is people like his clients who pay the price when job sites are not held to proper safety standards.
A Department of Buildings spokesman reported that the department is aware of the shortage of safety site inspectors. For now, however, any changes to the city’s construction safety procedures will have to be approved by the city council.