New York Times Expose Reveals Construction Site Safety Violations Linked to Completely Avoidable Deaths and Injuries in New York City

A recent New York Times expose has shed light on the rise of injuries and fatalities in New York City’s construction industry over the last two years.  The investigation found that although construction is increasing throughout the City, the rate of accidents is disproportionate to the new construction.  While the rate of new construction projects increased by 11% in the last fiscal year, the rate of accidents increased by 52%.

Additionally, the investigation uncovered that the same safety violations kept arising on many of the same sites despite safety reports and lawsuits.  After investigating construction accidents for two years, the New York Times concurred with the findings of a federal investigation and determined that many of these fatalities and injuries were “completely avoidable.”

Most of the deaths and injuries that occurred on construction sites affected undocumented immigrants who may be fearful to speak out against safety violations on construction sites due to their legal status. The Times cited one recent tragedy in which an immigrant had fallen 140 feet to his death because he was not wearing a safety harness.  Additionally, guardrails had not been installed at the site, and the elevated platform did not meet the wall as required.  Investigators found that the worker had fake certification for safety training.  The safety administration fined the construction company $42,000 for these and additional violations.

While the accidents that occurred in midtown were widely publicized, they accounted for only a quarter of the accidents throughout the city.  Most of the accidents that occurred took place on smaller sites that used non-union and poorly trained workers.

Other incidents that had occurred in the last two years that the Times referred in the expose included:

  • An immigrant worker falling 14 feet to his death due to lack of guard rails and supervision
  • An Ecuadorian immigrant who fell from a ladder because the construction company demanded jobs be done quickly and without safety training
  • A worker who fell through a floor opening due to slippery conditions that went ignored
  • A worker who was not wearing a safety harness fell two stories on a site that did not provide extension ladders and repair unsafe scaffolding

According to a report issued by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, many construction companies that repeatedly violate safety regulations disregard OSHA citations due to the low number of both OSHA inspectors and monetary penalties.  However, various agencies have begun cracking down on penalizing companies that disregard safety regulations.  For example, although criminality in construction accident cases has often been difficult to prove, the Manhattan DA’s Office filed manslaughter and other charges against two construction companies and managers last August.  The charges were filed after a worker was crushed to death as a result of willfully ignored safety regulations.  Additionally, the de Blasio administration is planning on implementing 100 additional building inspectors as well as new data tools and a code of conduct for the construction industry.  New York City’s investigation department also continues to conduct random inspections that it began in 2012 in an effort to deter the corruption that is so prevalent in the industry.

If you are a construction worker who has been injured on the job, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation.  Additionally, if you were injured due to an elevation related accident, you may be able to sue your employer and third parties under New York’s strict liability “Scaffold Law.”  Contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney to discuss your claim. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles Workers’ Compensation claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island.  Call (866)557-7500 for a consultation.

OSHA Issues Violations to Cemetery After Grave Digger is Nearly Buried Alive

Recently, a cemetery worker in Long Island was seriously injured after he was nearly buried alive.  The worker had been digging a grave when excavated dirt had fallen back into the grave opening, burying him up to his waist.  The incident led to an OSHA investigation into the safety practices of the cemetery.

OSHA proposed a total of $123,200 in penalties for two willful and three serious violations.  The investigation uncovered that the cemetery had not implemented the OSHA required support system for trenching or excavation.  According to OSHA regulations, restraining devices must be implemented within two feet of the edge of a trench in order to keep the excavated dirt from falling back into the grave.  The worker’s injuries were a result of failure to implement such support systems.  Additionally, the investigation’s findings included discovering that equipment used for protective systems was damaged or defective; ladders used did not meet the height regulation; and grave slopes not meeting the proper ratio requirements.

Workers in the cemetery industry can face any number of injuries ranging from falls, injuries related to operating machinery or carrying headstones, as well as hazards related to trenching and excavation.  Essentially, digging at a grave site is an excavation like those performed in the construction industry.  In addition to the hazards workers face by the potentiality of a wall collapse without proper trench support, they can also be exposed to hazardous chemicals.  Workers should have their own personal protective gear such as hard hats to prevent head injury from falling rocks or dirt.  In addition, workers should wear respiratory protection to limit the inhalation of elements such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane that can appear in the soil.

An individual can suffocate as a result of being only partially buried in soil.  Therefore, it is extremely important to exercise all precautions and follow safety procedures when conducting any kind of excavation to prevent a cave-in.  To learn more about OSHA’s trenching and excavation regulations, click here.

If you are a worker who has suffered injury due to an employer’s failure to follow excavation or trenching safety regulations, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation.  The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, represents individuals who have been injured on the job throughout the five boroughs of New York City including Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, as well as both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.  Call (866)557-7500 for a consultation.

New Regulation Would Protect Workers Exposed to Beryllium

OSHA has recently proposed a new regulation that would help protect workers who are exposed to beryllium.  The chemical, which is released through dust, fumes, mist and in other forms, can cause a fatal respiratory disease in those who are exposed.  Annually, 35,000 workers are exposed to the chemical and 245 new cases of illnesses related to beryllium exposure arise each year.  Such illnesses include lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease- a condition causing inflammation and scarring of the lungs.  Officials estimate that implementing new regulations would prevent 100 deaths and 50 new illness cases annually.

The new regulation would lower the allowed exposure limit from 2.0 to .2 micrograms per cubic meter of air- 1/10th the current level.  The maximum amount of exposure time legally allowed is currently 8 hours.  Additionally, workers would be medically monitored to assess whether they exhibited early signs of beryllium related illness.

Beryllium, a naturally occurring element, is commonly found in the aerospace and electronics industries.  Additionally, it is also used in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.  In fact, the Labor Department compensated 2,500 nuclear workers who were exposed to beryllium at a total cost of $500 million, to date.  The chemical can also be found in dental lab work and foundry operations.  The proposed regulation would not apply to those who work in an industry in which beryllium is found in raw materials, such as at coal burning power plants, or aluminum producing facilities.

The proposed rule is open for public comment between August 7, 2015 and November 9, 2015.  To read the proposed rule, click here.

Exposure to beryllium, or any other toxic chemical in the workplace can cause serious health conditions.  If you have suffered adverse health effects from being subjected to exposure to a dangerous substance or condition at work, contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies.  Call The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP at (866) 557-7500.