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The NYC Buildings Department and Construction Accidents

This blog focuses on construction accidents and the dangers to workers at construction sites and other jobsites in New York City. Although employers and building owners are responsible for ensuring that their workplaces are safe, who oversees the employers and building owners to make sure they are in compliance and following city, state and local laws? It’s the city’s Department of Buildings.

What Does the Department of Buildings Do?

The New York City Department of Buildings is the first line of defense when it comes to construction site safety and the safety of buildings in general. According to its website, the Department is responsible for ensuring the safe and lawful use of over 975,000 buildings and properties by enforcing the city’s Building Code and other laws. Some of the department’s work includes:

  • Performing building plan examinations
  • Issuing construction permits
  • Inspecting properties
  • Licensing construction trades
  • Issuing certificates of occupancy
  • Issuing stop work orders
  • Padlocking properties used illegally, i.e., conducting a manufacturing business in a residential zoned for residential use
  • Working with other agencies such as the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY)
  • Issuing Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations when a building does not comply with buildings codes or zoning regulations
  • Monitoring construction sites where work has stopped to ensure public safety and protect the property
  • Implementing the recommendations of the 2009 High-Risk Construction Oversight study
  • Disciplining licensed individuals who violate the conditions of their licensure, including architects, engineers, filling contractors, plumbers, electricians and anyone whose work requires an NYC or state license

Given these broad responsibilities, the many building projects in the city, the number of buildings and the modest staffing levels of the Buildings Department, it is remarkable that there are not more construction accidents. This fact is attributable in part to the commitment to safety by the thousands of construction workers and their unions as well as most – but not all – employers in the construction industry.