During the "Spring Digital Build: Safety, Innovation & Sustainability Conference"
“Building codes truly serve as the structural skeleton of New York City… Our construction codes are critical to so many aspects of our infrastructure and they ultimately directly impact people’s lives,” said then Acting Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) Constadino “Gus” Sirakis addressing over 1000 virtual participants at the opening session of the Spring Digital Build 2022: Safety, Innovation and Sustainable Conference held over Construction Safety Week, May 2 through May 6.
In his opening remarks, Sirakis credited the revised codes for being innovative, sustainable, and uniquely suited to the City’s dense environment as they protect the “safety and soundness” of over 1.1 million buildings and 40,000 active construction sites every day.
The DOB is, said Sirakis, “on the frontlines of economic development and public safety” not only for 8.5 million New Yorkers, but also for a global industry that looks to the City for its expertise “because we’re the best at what we do.” He acknowledged that stopping a job abruptly means lost wages and vacating a building can mean lost homes yet stressed that it is the DOB’s duty to strike a balance between bolstering the industry, the economy, and the reopening with its “mandate to strictly enforce the City’s building code.”
He concluded by challenging participants to make the City safer, to have fewer construction incidents and fatalities to “make New York City an even better place to live, work and build.”
One of the most significant changes is the designation of a major building which will have a staggered implementation. A major building is currently defined as a structure of 10 or more stories measuring 125 feet in height. The new definition designates a major building as a structure of 7 or more stories measuring 75 feet. The existing designation remains in effect until December 2024 at which time all extra requirements for a major building will affect 7-, 8- and 9-story buildings.
Construction Safety Annual Report
Tim Hogan, deputy commissioner of enforcement, delivered the Construction Safety Annual Report noting an injury count that stayed “on par” with the prior year (505 up from 502) and, sadly, an increase of one fatality: 9 versus 8 in 2020 (see article on page 7). He detailed the cause and location of each worker death noting ways these could have been prevented, outlined near misses, and told all that 2022 was “off to a poor start” with 4 fatalities and one critical injury through April 2022.
Hogan told attendees that it is imperative to always have the required documentation – construction/site safety plans and completed logs - on hand in a location known to the entire workforce.
The documents must be:
• Approved and stamped
• Easily accessible
Since September 2018, the DOB Safety and Compliance Unit has issued 7600 stop work orders: 62% of these can be attributed to missing documentation.
Construction Codes - Timeline and Highlights
Day One’s second session was a 2022 Code Revision Overview presented by Joseph Ackroyd, PE, assistant commissioner for technical affairs and co-development, and Robert Holub, code development architect. The duo offered an overview of the major changes made to the existing 2014 codes, a timeline, and highlights.
The revised 2022 Construction Codes were achieved through consensus building between technical committees represented by engineers, attorneys, planners, tradespersons, industry organizations in labor, real estate, utilities and other agencies and authorities from the City and State. “We cast a very wide net with our participants,” said Ackroyd.
The revisions are designed to bring, “improvements in building technologies and safety further protecting the health and welfare of all New Yorkers,” said Ackroyd, who referred to specific changes to administrative codes including measures pertaining to boilers, elevators, parking structures, fire suppression piping systems and other aspects of the built environment.
Holub outlined revisions concerning greater accessibility to sidewalks and roofs, electric vehicle charging stations, accessible dining, and destination-oriented elevators to better accommodate the visually impaired.
Construction Safety and demolition Code Updates
The Construction Safety in 2022 Codes for construction and demolition projects session was introduced by Ausberto “Augie” Huertas Jr., assistant commissioner Construction Safety Compliance on May 3, 2022, Day Two of DOB’s Spring Digital Build: Safety, Innovation & Sustainability Conference.
DOB Code Analyst Charles Shelhamer explained that the City codes follow the national standard which is based on the International Building Code, and that all from Chapter 33 has been consolidated into Chapter 2 of the new code. He outlined key definition modifications:
• Incident replaces accident reflecting an understanding that “there’s a root cause to trace back to the failing” as opposed to an event that occurred suddenly “like a bolt of lightning out of the blue.” While the terminology has changed, the criteria remain the same.
• “Temporary construction” becomes “temporary construction installations” – This clarification applies to scaffolding, sheds, power cranes and other regulated items. Amended design loads for wind and wind action plans have now been established.
The updated roles of the CS, SSM, and SSC & Jobs allowed
During the Construction Safety in 2022 Codes (BC 33) presentation, Ausberto “Augie” Huertas Jr., assistant commissioner Construction Safety Compliance detailed some of the changes tied to projects requiring a Construction Superintendent (CS), a Site Safety Manager (SSM) and/or a Site Safety Coordinator (SSC), explaining why some rulings take effect prior to November 7, 2022.
The number of jobs a CS can be designated for is being reduced from 10 active jobs to one active job through a phased approach (see phases and implementation dates below), and will be subject to disciplinary action if this is not adhered to.
An exception pertains to major buildings: a CS on a major building cannot be designated on any other building. Non-major buildings within a contiguous lot are an exception to this ruling.
Site safety plans approved on or after November 7, 2022, will require a CS and an SSM or SSC. The Competent Person allowance will sunset in 2026 at which time a full-time CS and a Safety Professional will be required on all major and non-major building sites.