Leading construction firm pushes for stricter safety standards

Gilbane asking OSHA to adopt tie-off rule company says prevented 20 potentially fatal falls
May 04, 2016 02:05PM

With job site deaths on the rise amidst a city-wide building boom, one contractor is asking federal regulators to adopt a safety policy that it says has prevented 20 potentially fatal accidents since 2011.

Gilbane Building Co., which is working on sites such as Hudson Yards and the expansion of New York-Presbyterian Hospital on the Upper East Side, requires all of its workers to attach to a safety harness whenever they climb more than six feet above the ground, Crain’s reported.

William Gilbane III, head of the company’s New York office, said he’s calling on federal regulators to follow the same standard.

“We are proposing that [OSHA] adopt the six-foot tie-off rule that we have on our sites, and that it become a new standard for working at height in New York,” he said.

Most serious injuries on construction sites are the result of worker falls, and the Occupational Health and Safety administration requires structural steelworkers to tie off only when they climb higher than 25 feet. When any worker climbs scaffold above 10 feet, they’re required to use one attachment that they unhook and then reattach as they climb.

Gilbane’s workers, on the other hand, are required to tie off above six feet, and use two attachments anytime they climb scaffolds higher than that.

But because of the macho hardhat culture on job sties, workers often ignore such safety rules.

Gilbane made the announcement as construction firms gather for a national campaign to promote job site safety.

Between July 2014 and last summer, 10 people died in construction-related accidents, up from the average of 5.5 over the previous four years.

[Crain’s]Rich Bockmann