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The Plumbing Foundation testifies at NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection Hearing

McIver & Klock - NYC Council - testifying on backflow

April McIver, Executive Director of the Plumbing Foundation, testifying at the NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection Hearing

On Monday, June 25, 2018, April McIver, Executive Director of the Plumbing Foundation, testified at the NYC Council Committee on Environmental Protection Hearing in support of Intro. No. 268. This bill, introduced by Council Member Donovan Richards, requires building owners to report on the installation of backflow prevention devices, and requires the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to report the estimated number of buildings requiring such devices and compliance rates of such buildings. “Backflow” occurs when drinking water is contaminated by hazardous substances. It happens when street pressure pushes water into buildings where dangerous materials and chemicals may exist, and no device prevents that now contaminated water from re-entering the drinking water supply. Sometimes water flow can be reversed due to a water main break or a mistaken or accidental cross connection between the building’s water distribution and drainage systems. Therefore, it is vital that buildings install and maintain backflow prevention devices to prevent the harmful results of contaminated water, which can contain bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella.

Executive Director McIver testified in support of Intro. No. 268 but also provided the Council with recommendations on how to strengthen the bill’s provisions. The Foundation’s proposed amendments included requiring DEP to report actual numbers rather than estimates, and to increase fines for failure to install a required backflow prevention device. Currently, fines imposed on building owners are lower than the actual cost of installing backflow prevention devices, which incentivizes owners to just pay the lower fine rather than pay for installation. Also testifying in support of the bill was Arthur Klock, Training Director for Plumbers Union Local No.1 (pictured above).

The installation of backflow prevention devices should be considered a public health priority by the City of New York. It is apparent that the understanding of and compliance with backflow prevention is still an issue at large in the City. There is limited transparency on the part of DEP regarding enforcement, installation of backflow devices, and proper comprehensive reporting­—all of which needs to change. The Plumbing Foundation will continue to work with the City Council and City agencies to increase transparency and enforcement.

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It is vital that the New York City plumbing industry is aware of and prepared for various changes in training and qualification requirements for gas inspections and repairs.

State & Local Changes

First, there are three relevant changes for which all plumbers should be prepared:

  • The Utility companies (Con Edison & National Grid), by virtue of the US Department of Transportation (“US DOT”) and the New York State Public Service Commission (“PSC”), will be requiring licensed master plumbers (“LMPs”) and LMPs’ employees to be operator qualified in Covered Task 86 (Inspections) and/or Covered Task 87 (Maintenance/Repairs) to do such inspections and/or maintenance on USDOT jurisdictional gas piping. Operator Qualification entails a 7-hour course and a written and practical examination. This also will require anyone doing such inspections and/or maintenance to take a baseline (“pre-employment”) drug and alcohol test and to be part of a drug testing pool; per US DOT requirements, 50% of such pool will be drug tested at random per year. The Utilities will be making such requirements effective in their respective operating manuals by January 1, 2019. Please see below for more information on obtaining operator qualification, which we URGE you to act upon sooner rather than later.
  • Local Law 152 of 2016 requires periodic inspections of “building gas piping systems” beginning January 1, 2019. These inspections fall within the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Buildings (“DOB”) and applies to building gas piping systems, other than gas piping systems of buildings classified in occupancy group R-3. DOB is still working out what the qualifications will entail to conduct such inspections, as well as the break down of the inspection cycle and the detailed reporting requirements.
  • Local Law 150 of 2016 also falls within DOB’s jurisdiction and will require as of January 1, 2020 a DOB-issued “gas qualification” to do work on building gas piping systems within the Department’s jurisdiction. The law provides for exceptions: if you are a licensed master plumber or a DOB-registered journeyman by January 1, 2019, you automatically hold “gas qualification” for purposes of building gas piping systems. DOB is still working out what the qualifications will entail as well as the process to be “registered” to do gas work.

Operator Qualification

The Plumbing Foundation City of New York, Inc. has been working closely with the Northeast Gas Association (“NGA”), Con Edison, National Grid, the Master Plumbers Council and other industry experts and stakeholders (the “Gas Working Group”) on the requirement for operator qualification in Covered Tasks 86 and 87, as described above. The Gas Working Group decided the most beneficial means for the industry to become operator qualified and comply with the drug and alcohol component is to have the Plumbing Foundation administer the program and act as the drug testing pool representative for the entire NYC licensed plumbing community. Therefore, the Plumbing Foundation will be releasing in mid-June its “Gas Operator Qualification Membership” or “GOQ Membership” application, open to current members of the Foundation and non-members alike. Please look out for the mid-June email which will contain the application package.

The GOQ Membership is applied to by a NYC-licensed plumbing firm on behalf of those employees the LMP wishes to enroll in the operator qualification program. Cost is per employee. LMPs and their employees must have prior experience with gas work to enroll. Once members, employees will first receive a baseline (or “pre-employment”) drug and alcohol test, and if they pass they will be placed in the drug testing pool. The US DOT requires 50% of this pool to be tested at random annually. Once in the pool, employees will be scheduled for the 7-hour training course with authorized instructors. Following confirmation that employees completed the training with the authorized instructors, employees will be scheduled for the written and practical examinations, which will take place at an approved testing facility. The written examination consists of approximately 100 questions on general knowledge and specific knowledge relevant to Covered Tasks 86 and 87. The practical examination requires an individual to identify corrosion on gas piping. Once the Plumbing Foundation receives confirmation of passing grades for both the written and practical examinations, those employees will receive a “QR” card and can engage in Covered Task 86 and/or 87 work. The QR card requires a photograph of the individual and will contain the individual’s operator qualification status and drug testing pool status. The QR card can be scanned by Utilities for compliance purposes.

Please contact the Plumbing Foundation for the GOQ membership application (available mid-June) or for any questions at: GOQMembership@plumbingfoundation.nyc.

We urge those interested to seek membership as soon as the application is available mid-June as there is a maximum capacity per operator qualification testing day at approved testing facilities and we anticipate the seats filling up quickly.

Link to LL 150
Link to LL 152
Link to PSC decision and supporting documents

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We’ve Moved!

The Plumbing Foundation has a new home!

We are now located at —

535 8th Avenue
17th Floor
New York, NY 10018

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NYC Council Passes Anti-Sexual Harassment Package

Yesterday, the City Council passed several bills as part of its Anti-Sexual Harassment Package, most of such legislation will affect private employers. Please take special note of 632-a, which requires employers to conduct mandatory annual interactive training and to maintain records of such training–it applies to all companies with 15 or more employees. When further information is available on this anti-sexual harassment training, we will update the industry.
Please see below brief summaries of the bills. Click the bill number for a link to the full text.

City Council Intro No. Summary
657-A This legislation makes the NYC Human Rights Law, with respect to sexual harassment provisions, to apply to all employers, regardless of the number of employees.
660-A This legislation amends the policy statement of the New York City Human Rights Law to include sexual harassment as a form of discrimination that the New York City Commission on Human Rights (“CHR”) shall have the power to eliminate and prevent.
663-A This legislation extends the statute of limitations for filing gender-based harassment claims under the city human rights law from one year to three years.
630-A This legislation requires CHR to design an anti-sexual harassment rights and responsibilities poster that all NYC employers are required to post in a conspicuous/ common location. The poster will be available online for employers. The bill also requires an information sheet on sexual harassment to be distributed to employees at time of hire.
632-A This legislation mandates that all private employers with 15 or more employees conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees, including supervisors and managerial employees. CHR will be responsible for creating an online interactive training module to be posted on their website for access by employers. An employee who has received anti-sexual harassment training at one employer within the required training cycle is not required to receive additional anti-sexual harassment training at another employer until the next cycle.
693 This legislation amends the division of labor services employment report, required by city contractors, to include employment practices, policies, and procedures as they relate to preventing and addressing sexual harassment.
614-A This legislation requires CHR to conspicuously post on their website online resources about sexual harassment.
612-A This legislation mandates that all city agencies conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees, including supervisors and managerial employees.
613-A This legislation requires the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to conduct an ongoing assessment of risk factors (developed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace) associated with sexual harassment to help provide a fair and safe work environment for all city workers. The law sunsets January 31, 2022.
653-A This legislation mandates annual reporting on workplace sexual harassment incidents within city agencies. The administering agency is DCAS. A report is due to the mayor, council, and CHR. CHR will post it to its website.
664-A This legislation requires DCAS to develop a climate survey to be administered on a voluntary basis at all city agencies to determine the general awareness and knowledge of the city’s equal employment opportunity (“EEO”) policy, including but not limited to sexual harassment policies and prevention. The survey will be followed by a report to the mayor and speaker.
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