N.Y. City Fire Department, Contractors Form Joint Job Safety Council

November 21, 2007

New York City fire department officials and construction contractors have formed a joint advisory council to lay down stringent safety rules for job sites, aimed at forestalling such mishaps as the fire that killed two city firefighters in a partially dismantled skyscraper earlier this year.

The creation of a Fire Safety Advisory Council will make New York City “a safer place for construction workers, firefighters and the public alike,” said Louis J. Coletti, president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers’ Association.

Details of the plan were to be spelled out at a news conference, along with a “report card” on construction safety by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the city’s Department of Buildings.

Firefighters Robert Beddia, 53, and Joseph Graffagnino, 33, died of smoke inhalation last Aug. 18 on Saturday while fighting a fire at the former Deutsche Bank building, a 41-story skyscraper damaged by debris on Sept. 11 that was being painstakingly dismantled.

Senior fire officials came under severe criticism for not having a safety plan to assure that firefighters had proper protective gear and a clear means of escape from the partially demolished structure.

In a statement, Colletti’s group, which represents 1,200 unionized construction firms and 25 contractor assocations, said the advisory council’s first recommendation would be to require all high-rise buildings under construction — those 14 stories and higher — to have fire safety plans, to be submitted to the city buildings and fire departments.

“This would apply both to buildings over 14 stories being constructed and those being demolished,” Coletti said.

He said BETA “works diligently to improve safety at our sites each year, and we only hope that non-union contractors will follow suit and work to improve their work sites.”

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