Construction sites are dangerous places. There is no way around it. Fortunately there are a constantly growing number of safety regulations that are intended to minimize the possibility that an accident will occur and to hopefully minimize the extent of any injuries if an accident does occur. New York City has some of the most specific and detailed safety requirements in the United States. Contractors may think that the regulations are too burdensome to keep up with or may simply not have the staff or the time to keep up to date on the regulatory changes. But following all possible safety precautions may be the difference between a tragic accident and a close call. The New York City Department of Buildings recently adopted new regulations intended to protect employees against one of the most common, and dangerous, injuries that occur on a construction site – falling from a height. These new mandated safety protocols relate to concrete embedded Fall Arresting Systems and are intended to ensure that contractors adequately protect their employees with reliable safety-harness systems that may prevent the chance of falls. These new protocols are now required for all new and existing concrete-embedded Fall Arresting systems, and are in addition to all of the currently existing requirements from the manufacturer of the systems, the New York City Building Code, and all other applicable laws and regulations.
Fall Arrest systems are a form of protection that involve the safe stopping of a person already falling, and are one of several forms of fall protection available to construction workers. The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration specifies under Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations that individuals working at heights must be protected from fall injury, and Fall Arrest Systems are one of several protections defined under Title 29. These systems must include 4 mandatory elements: 1) Anchorage, a fixed structure or structural adaptation; 2) Full body harness worn by workers; 3) Connectors, a subsystem component connecting the harness to the anchorage, such as a lanyard; and 4) Deceleration devise, a subsystem component designed to dissipate the forces associated with a fall arrest event.
Effective June 13, 2008, contractors must obtain shop drawings, approved by a licensed engineer, for all concrete-embedded Fall Arresting Systems prior to installation, and these shop drawings must be available at the construction site at all times, and must include: Manufacturers type and name; Instructions on proper installation and use; Adequacy of the concrete structure to sustain dynamic loads; List of occupational classifications allowed to use the system; and instructions on testing and inspection procedures.
The site’s construction superintendant will be responsible for the proper installation of each piece of the concrete-embedded Fall Arresting System. The superintendant, or a person of competence working directly under the superintendant’s supervision, must inspect the Fall Arresting System prior to and during its installation. A competent person must have three years of experience in concrete placement inspections and must be trained by the manufacturer or an authorized representative. In connection with these inspections, the construction superintendant must prepare and sign a statement of the inspection’s success and, in addition, keep this statement at the project site at all times.
For existing Concrete-Embedded systems, prior to any further use of a Fall Arresting System, contractors must now obtain a licensed engineer’s approval certifying that the existing concrete-embedded system has been field tested by a qualified testing entity according to protocol acceptable to the engineer, and that the system meets the manufacturer’s expectations. The engineer’s certification must also be available on site at all times.
Further information regarding the new regulatory protocols is available from the NYC Department of Buildings (New Protocols for Existing and New Concrete-Embedded Fall Arresting Systems).
Jobsite injuries caused by a fall from height can be devastating not only to the injured worker but also to the economic viability of the contractor, especially the general contractor. Under New York’s Labor Law the general contractor and the project’s owner will, on many occasions, be held strictly liable for injuries resulting from a fall from a height. Because of this, contractors should pay particular attention to following all applicable safety codes and regulations and keeping up to date on changes to the regulations. Doing so not only protects the health and safety of your employees but may help prevent the costly litigation that almost always results from construction site injuries.
In the event that the worst has occurred and an accident has happened on site contractors should, after tending to the immediate medical and safety concerns at the site, immediately place all insurance carriers on notice of the accident. It is important to remember that you should provide notice even if you do not believe that the injury was your fault or that it was serious. Notice should always be done in writing and you should review the notice provisions of your insurance policy to see where the notice should be sent. If you cannot find out where to send the notice call your insurance company and find out. Even if the insurance company takes the claim information over the phone be sure to follow up with a written notice. Many contractors often forget to notify not only their own insurance company, but all companies that have named them as an additional insured as well. A general contractor may have several subcontractors on site that have all named the general contractor as an additional insured for the project. Each of those insurance companies should be notified, in writing, of the accident. Let your insurance company and your attorney sort out later on which of the insurance companies, if any, is responsible for covering the loss.
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