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Boston mayor signs construction safety ordinance


Photo: Boston City TV

Boston — Detailed site safety plan requirements, free training and education, and ramped-up enforcement are the three key elements of a new construction safety ordinance in Boston.

Mayor Michelle Wu (D) signed the ordinance on June 1 at the city’s Brazilian Worker Center. The event included a moment of silence for workers who have died on construction sites in the city.

Under the ordinance, set to go into effect Dec. 2, all employers seeking construction and demolition permits with the city’s Inspectional Services Department must submit – and be prepared to implement – a site safety plan that outlines planned protections for potential hazards to workers on the site, the public and the property.

All workers, including subcontractors, will be required to receive a site safety orientation and a refresher to review the site safety plan, as well as attend pre-shift safety meetings.

In addition, construction projects larger than 50,000 square feet and demolition jobs for buildings four stories or taller will be required to have a designated site safety coordinator.

“We’re excited and thankful at the progress but also here with a deep sense of mourning and regret and pain for what it has taken and the lives that were lost before this will be in place,” Wu said during a press conference.

In 2021, the rate of construction fatalities in Boston was 4.9 per 15,000 workers – more than 2.5 times higher than the national average of 1.8.

ISD issues around 40,000 construction and demolition permits annually. “Requiring a safety plan means 40,000 more opportunities to protect our workers and our residents,” Wu said.

The city has budgeted $290,000 to provide free OSHA 30-hour training to city employees, said Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, Boston’s deputy chief of worker empowerment. So far, about 40 staff members have taken part in two training classes in both English and Spanish, with more to come.

“We wanted everyone to know that the city’s role was greater than enforcement,” she told Safety+Health. “Those [city staff members] wanted to get the same level of training and be able to identify potential hazards on the jobsite at a higher level than they have before.”

Sugerman-Brozan said the city is planning quarterly orientation sessions for contractors to learn about the ordinance, available resources and how to comply. The city is also preparing a website that will be “a one-stop shop” for safety and health resources on topics such as fall protection, work zone safety, heat illness prevention, how to create a health and safety plan, assessing hazards, and more.

Wu noted the ordinance “will add much-needed enforcement capacity to [ISD]. They’ll have the power to issue violations, stop work, revoke permits and levy fines.”

Sugerman-Brozan said the city’s Worker Empowerment Cabinet, which includes several city departments, will track the number of permits, plans, violations, people trained and stop-work orders over the next year in an effort to “assess and evolve and do all we can to ensure we’re building on what we’ve created here.”   

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