Contractors who have been following COVID-19 safety requirements now have all the more reason to do so in New York City. Starting July 8, 2020, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) resumed issuing penalties for non-compliance with current DOB or state COVID-19 guidelines. Since early June, New York City construction projects were permitted to resume activities provided they follow all DOB requirements, including the New York State Department of Health’s Interim Guidance for Construction Activities During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (NYS Interim Guidance).
Under those requirements, employers had to develop a jobsite specific safety plan. Such plans must include measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19: social distancing, appropriate face coverings, capacity limitations within confined spaces, hand hygiene stations, and cleaning and disinfecting protocols. Employers also must post the site safety plan conspicuously at the site. The regulations require employers to submit an affirmation to the state, confirming they understand the obligation to comply with the state’s guidance. This affirmation carries an obligation to ensure the safety plan is implemented and enforced.
Until July 8, 2020, DOB inspectors checked sites for compliance with NYS Interim Guidance required employer safety plans, but only issued violation warnings, thus without penalties, to educate and promote compliance. After that date, DOB inspectors began issuing penalties for violations, and continued non-compliance can result in penalties of up to $10,000 for each subsequent offense. Successive or egregious violations can result in stop-work orders.
For contractors already adhering to state guidance and implementing the required safety measures, the stepped-up enforcement will not affect business operations. Those not complying now face a greater risk of being fined and shut down. With this step up in enforcement, contractors should review and identify areas to improve safety plans and ensure their enforcement. Not only will this review help ensure and promote workers’ health and safety, but it will prevent any unnecessary penalties and disruptions to work from avoidable missteps and deviations from DOB and state guidance.
The complete DOB and state safety guidance and standards are complex, detailed, and continually updated and changed. Contractors can find more information and resources on the DOB’s NYC Construction Restart webpage, located here. For particular guidance on complying with all regulations and developing proper and adequate safety plans, contractors should seek legal counsel from an experienced construction attorney.