I was at a dinner party one night, and during the normal course of conversation, professions were discussed. And nearly every time I said construction or building contractor, someone in the circle would talk about a person he or she knew in the business- i.e., a friend of a friend, an uncle, a brother-in-law, etc.
As the evening progressed, I was treated to stories about all varieties of small contractors who worked primarily on brownstones, sidewalks, shingle roofs, and a variety of other specialties. Some did not even have offices; they worked out of their basements and garages. But what they did have- that many New York City contractors do not- are licenses.
I am referring to such basics as a rigger and site safety auditor licenses that reflect an appropriate level of professionalism. These licenses indicate that there is always someone present on a site who is schooled in the craft and understands proper safety codes, as well as rigging practices. Professional insight may be derived from experience, but there is a foundation of knowledge built into the licensing courses and examinations.
If you plan on hiring a contractor to do work that involves any form of rigging, be sure to get a copy of his rigger’s license. After seeing the license, you can call 311 and confirm the company’s four-digit rigger’s license number. You can also access the information online by visiting http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/bsqpm01.jsp.
In all my years of experience, I have only been asked for my license number a handful of times. Too often, unlicensed companies are hired for jobs without the building management knowing the company lacks the proper credentials. And you have an obligation to know because if there is an accident or injury at the site and it turns out the company was not licensed, your insurance company could deny coverage.
Beyond acquiring basic licenses, our firm encourages key personnel to attend the courses offered by manufacturers whose products we use. It is the best way to ensure proper application. In addition to my employees, I have taken courses and received official approvals from many of these manufacturers, including GAF, Firestone, U.S. Intec, Tri-Ply, Sika, Sonneborn, and Master Builders.
By advocating better product knowledge and licensing standards, we are raising the bar for building contractors throughout the city. Our industry has changed tremendously over the years, and despite certain recent events, today’s contractors comprise a better-educated and more professional group than many of our predecessors.