Kendall Jones – July 9, 2014
Answer: When they are hairdressers, musicians, bellhops and short order cooks posing as site safety managers. This may seem crazy, but last week two companies and seven individuals were indicted in New York State Supreme Court and charged with a number of offences including grand larceny, scheme to defraud and criminal possession of a forged instrument. The two companies indicted, Avanti Building Consultants, Inc. and NYCB Engineering Group, falsified over 450 safety inspection documents at roughly 40 construction sites in New York City in lieu of having actual site safety managers visiting and inspecting the sites.
In New York City there are laws that require a private third-party site safety manager licensed by the Department of Buildings be retained to inspect sites that involve exterior construction and demolition on buildings 15 stories or taller. These site safety managers are typically hired by the building owner or the general contractor and report directly to the Department of Buildings. The site safety manager is responsible for completing a daily safety inspection which requires being onsite for two hours each day, documenting the inspection in a log and reporting any safety concerns to the Department of Buildings.
Avanti apparently hired unlicensed individuals, some of which they recruited through Craigslist, to falsify safety logs and forge the signatures of at least 10 licensed site safety managers. They were eventually caught someone at the Department of Buildings realized Avanti was using the credentials of a deceased site safety manager who had passed away a year ago. Even after Avanti was discovered using a dead man’s credentials they attempted to replace those falsified safety logs with other sets of forged safety logs. All this from a company whose website claims they have “earned a remarkable reputation as a leading A/E/C consulting firm. Richard Marini, CEO created a solid foundation and unmatched footprints in the field of building consulting. Avanti is committed to operating a quality organization of unwavering ethics and quality results. We guarantee it!”
As a result of the investigation into Avanti, the Department of Buildings and the Department of Investigation conducted more than 400 site visits that resulted in 80 violations and roughly 30 stop work orders in addition to a similar scheme being conducted by NYCB Engineering Group. In addition to using the credentials of licensed site safety managers without permission to falsify inspection logs, they also used licensed site safety managers who knowingly allowed their credentials to be used to falsify documents. In one instance NYCB assigned a site safety manager to perform inspections at 14 sites in one day. This means that a site safety manager magically performed a minimum of 28 hours of work in a 24-hour period.
This type of corruption and fraud puts a black mark on the entire construction industry and undermines the construction firms that hired these companies to ensure that they were providing a safe working environment for their employees. It’s bad enough that these companies were ripping off their clients by charging them for safety inspections that weren’t actually being completed. (They were also paying these unlicensed individuals $20 – S25 an hour when actual site safety managers make upwards of $100 an hour or more and pocketing the difference.) Even worse, by not actually completing safety inspections they were endangering the lives of the construction workers at these sites along with those of the general public.