City Council and Mayor Approves Landmark Construction Safety Legislation
by Neal Tepel
Following the tragic fire at the former Deutsche Bank building located at 130 Liberty Street that took the lives of firefighters Joseph Graffagnino Jr. and Robert Beddia, the Mayor ordered a comprehensive review of oversight and operations at construction, demolition, and abatement sites. As a result, city council legislation focused on four areas: inspection processes, general oversight, field operations, and data sharing. Five bills were signed in to law in June and four signed September 3, 2009.
Introductory Number 993-A, requires registered design professionals to submit plans and details to the Buildings Department regarding the building or section of a building to be demolished using handheld mechanical devices such as chainsaws and jackhammers. It also enhances Construction Code requirements for mechanical demolitions using non-handheld devices such as bobcats or backhoes. All demolition projects are complicated and involve sophisticated equipment. The requirements of Introductory Number 993-A significantly increase the safety of that work by having DOB review plans before issuing a permit for demolition work.
Introductory Number 994-A, requires the uniform color-coding of standpipe and sprinkler systems and professional certification that these systems have been properly color-coded. Color-coding requirements will facilitate identification of sprinkler and standpipe systems by Fire Department personnel during an emergency.
Introductory Number 999-A, requires site safety managers to check standpipe systems to ensure that they’re in a state of readiness and to document these inspections. Checking that a standpipe system is ready at all times during construction will ensure that Fire Department personnel will have access to water when they are called to an emergency at a construction site.
Introductory Number 1000-A, relates to the cutting and capping of standpipe and sprinkler systems. The Building Code currently allows contractors to cut and cap standpipes or sprinklers during construction or demolition without requiring a permit. Introductory Number 1000-A allows only a licensed master plumber or licensed master fire suppression piping contractor who has obtained a permit to cut and cap standpipes or sprinklers. Working standpipe and sprinkler systems are critical to firefighter operations and the process of cutting and capping them should not go unreviewed. This bill ensures that only licensed individuals with the necessary expertise will perform this work.
These legislative bills are designed to improve safety, enhance coordination, and increase oversight at construction, demolition, and asbestos abatement sites in New York City. These bills relate to two specific areas: enhancing safety at construction and demolition sites and strengthening standpipe and sprinkler safety.