NYC Mayor Proposes Safety Bills Due to Rise in Scaffold Deaths

A rise in scaffolding accidents New York City last year has prompted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to introduce measures intended to improve safety for workers toiling on suspended scaffolds.

Bloomberg has earmarked $6 million to implement recommendations from the Suspended Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force, which he convened in November 2006 after the death of a 25-year-old worker whose safety harness wasn't properly fastened. Bloomberg plans to dedicate $4 million to create a Scaffold Safety Unit within the Department of Building to ensure greater accountability and oversight.

"…As the number of construction and maintenance projects in the City has risen, so too have the number of scaffold accidents," said Bloombert. "That's why we brought together a team of experts to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure the safety and well-being of those New Yorkers who work every day to build a stronger future for out city."

Increase in Projects, Increase in Deaths

According to Bloomberg, who presented his proposal Feb. 7, there were 29 construction deaths in 2006, which represents a 40 percent increase from the previous year. He also mentioned there were 20 accidents involving suspended scaffolding, which is the type that hangs from the roof of tall buildings by ropes or other means, not the ones anchored on the ground. Of those 20 accidents, six workers were killed and five were injured.

One of the bills Bloomberg drafted would regulate scaffolds that use devices called C-hooks. According to the task force, C-hooks were involved in 57 percent of suspended scaffolding fatalities in 2006. A second bill would increase penalties for contractors and licensed riggers who violate scaffold training and safety procedures. A third bill would require daily written inspections by a trained site supervisor and focuses on lessening risk tot he public as those working on the scaffolds.

Day Laborers = 75 Percent of Deaths

The city also has been airing Spanish public service announcement on the city's Spanish-language radio station, talking about worker safety. Most of the deaths were day laborers, and a language barrier was listed by Bloomberg as a factor in more than 75 percent of the 29 construction site deaths.

"We must do a better job in protecting workers," he said, "especially for day laborers who come to this country to see a better life for themselves and their families. A better life must include a safe working environment."

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