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Taking safety seriously during high winds

Nobody can control the weather, but we can control how we prepare and respond. In the construction industry, a prompt reaction to a period of high winds is vital to ensure worker safety.

Here in New York, the city’s Department of Buildings regularly issues alerts when dangerous high winds are in the forecast. In these alerts, officials urge responsible parties to take precautions. Here is a look at what is expected.

What needs to be done

When the forecast calls for high winds, city officials expect property owners to consider the safety of their buildings. That means accounting for things like cranes, scaffolding, hoists and any other equipment that could be blown loose. Specific actions that must be taken include:

  • Securing scaffolding, as well as netting and sidewalk sheds
  • Suspending crane work and securing crane equipment when winds hit 30 mph or higher
  • Stopping hoist operations and securing exterior hoists at 35 mph and above
  • Tying down and securing material and loose debris on sites
  • Storing loose tools in a tool box
  • Bracing and securing construction fences
  • Covering electrical equipment

Under the city’s recommendations, builders, contractors, property owners, crane operators and developers can all help take these steps.

When safety precautions are ignored

High winds are not something to take lightly. Workers have been injured or killed when blustery conditions took down scaffolding, loosened debris and toppled a crane.

Property owners are legally required to keep their properties in a safe condition for construction workers. In addition, as noted after strong winds blew heavy debris across the city in January 2020, contractors are responsible for taking precautions to secure their work site during these gusty days.

If the Department of Buildings finds a site is not properly secured, it can lead to a violation or Stop Work Order. Similarly, if a party fails to follow through on these basic safety measures and a worker suffers an injury as a result, that may be reason for legal action.

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