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Workplace Safety Scam Uncovered

Outsourcing building inspections, a common practice at the New York Department of Buildings, has unwanted consequences. It turns out that two safety firms hired to verify that workplace safety practices were implemented correctly at building sites were actually scamming the system and that the desired outcome -- preventing construction accidents -- was the last thing the "inspectors" were doing.

The fraudulent actions by two companies, Avanti Building Consultants of Staten Island and NYCB Engineering of Queens, were discovered when an alert city inspector saw some inconsistencies in a report signed by a site safety manager and tried to call the person who signed the form. Instead of talking with the person who signed off on the construction project, he talked with the man’s widow. The safety manager had died months before, at age 79.

A subsequent investigation led to the indictment of the two companies in early July 2014. The investigation showed that one of the companies, Avanti, recruited “inspectors” using Craigslist. The employees were cooks, bellhops, hairdressers and musicians – almost everything except safety inspectors. The job was not to inspect, but to travel from job site to job site to sign safety logs, either with their own names or with the names of actual safety managers, living or dead. In addition to the inspection companies, the indictment covered seven managers and other employees of the companies.

At NYCB, safety managers claimed that they had inspected 14 sites a day. This was impossible, as city requirements specify that managers spend at least two hours a day on site.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., said, “We’re very lucky no one was hurt. They didn’t just scam the system. They put in danger the people (at the sites and passers-by).”

Source: New York Daily News, “Two NYC building safety firms indicted on charges of falsifying reports — even signing dead man’s name,” Jul. 3, 2014.

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