Construction Scaffolding and NYC Safety

By Kim Norton
Support or frame construction scaffolding

old building under construction surrounded by scaffolding image by Stephen Orsillo from Fotolia.com

Construction scaffolding is considered "temporary equipment and construction," according to the New York City Buildings Code. There are specific regulations and design safety requirements that must be met before any type of scaffolding can be constructed or operated in New York City. The city's Department of Buildings (DOB) oversees all construction scaffolding requirements, regulations and safety inspections. Building code requirements were updated by the DOB in 2006 following a rise in construction scaffolding accidents.

Supported Scaffolds

There are two main types of construction scaffolds used in New York City. One is a supported, or frame scaffold; the other is a suspended, or hanging, scaffold. A supported scaffold, according to the New York City DOB, consists of one or more level, weight-bearing platforms with a rigid support structure underneath. This structure can consist of poles, posts and/or metal framework and must remain for the duration of the construction. Building code safety requirements include calculating for wind and storm resistance. The DOB requires a permit if the support scaffold rises higher than 40 feet above the sidewalk.

Suspended Scaffolds

A suspended scaffold is a platform designed to hang from a support structure located on a building rooftop. The DOB defines three types of suspended scaffolding---davit structures (window-washer frameworks), outrigger beams, which have counterweights for balance, and C-Hooks. According to the DOB, suspended scaffolds, particularly C-Hook scaffolding, are more prone to accidents so there are stricter safety requirements. C-Hooks are scaffolds that hang from "C"-shaped hooks that must be installed properly by a licensed rigger or the scaffolding can fall.

Licensed Riggers

According to the DOB, only New York City-licensed riggers and workers who have passed a licensing exam can be used in the construction, maintenance, renovation and/or removal of a suspended scaffold. To be licensed, a rigger or worker must have a Scaffold Safety Challenge Exam Certificate. All certificates must be available on the work site, ready for inspection by DOB inspectors at any time.

Worker Safety

While the New York City DOB is responsible for all construction site safety, including scaffolding, worker safety is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). This oversight applies to workers installing all types of scaffolding, as well as those working upon or underneath scaffolding, including window-washer frameworks. OSHA safety requirements include wearing OSHA-approved safety harnesses and hard hats. Each worker must be anchored to a "lifeline," which is anchored at a point independent of other scaffold support systems such as C-Hooks.

Penalties and Fines

According to the New York City Building Code, any construction scaffolding that fails to comply with any and all safety regulations will get a Stop Work Order, effective immediately, issued by the DOB. Other penalties include fines of up to $2,000 per offense and a summons to appear before the city's Criminal Court, according to the DOB. If the construction company fails to comply with the Stop Work Order, imposed fines can rise to as much as $10,000.

Other Types of Scaffolds

Other smaller types of scaffolds used in construction that the DOB monitors for safety include pipe scaffolds; mast-climbing work platforms; temporary, or floating, scaffolds used by iron and metal workers or arc welders; and multipoint suspension scaffolds. All small scaffolding is regulated by the DOB via Rule 9, Section 9-03: Rigging Safety Regulations. Safety regulations apply during construction, maintenance, renovation and scaffolding removal.

About the Author

Kim Norton wrote for 25 years for an in-house securities research publication. She currently writes articles for Demand Studios that involve medical research, law and senior citizen concerns. She also writes radio advertising copy and opera librettos. A graduate of Westminster Choir College, Norton resides in Bayonne, N.J.

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