July 30, 2014
Worker’s Death in NYC Elevator Shaft Fall Shows Construction Site Peril
By Jonathan Damashek
The tragic death of a worker who fell five stories at an elementary school under construction in Queens is a recent example of the many fall hazards at construction sites.
Falls are the number one cause of death in construction accidents, accounting for about one-third of all construction site deaths. In 2012, there were 806 deaths in the U.S. construction industry, with 290 from falls, slips and trips, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Falls also injure workers, sometimes seriously. A co-worker of the deceased construction worker suffered injuries after falling four stories down an elevator shaft and being struck by debris in the same incident.
Construction workers die or suffer injuries after falling through holes in incomplete floors, through incomplete windows in wall frames, or from roofs, scaffolding, or ladders.
Job site owners and contractors under New York law are required to provide a safe workplace for construction workers. Proper safety steps can prevent many construction site fall fatalities and serious injuries, but sadly they are not always followed.
Federal safety rules require the use of fall restraint equipment and safety procedures to prevent falls from above six feet.
Examples of such precautions are to securely attach a safety harness that is in good working condition with no damage or wear and tear or to place a guardrail at the edge of roofs or floors along with a safety net below to provide added protection.
Unfortunately, these relatively inexpensive fall restraint systems are sometimes not utilized, or workers are not properly trained on the use of safety harnesses, or a safety harness system is not in good working condition.
Falls also occur because a general contractor fails to take a simple step like covering a floor hole with an appropriate cover that is marked “hole” or “opening,” or erecting a guard rail near a window opening in a wall. Sometimes scaffolding is not erected properly.
While workers’ compensation provides benefits for injuries suffered on the job, it does not cover actions by individuals or companies that do not employ an injured worker. Instead, a worker injured because of the carelessness of third parties may have the legal right to seek compensation for his or her medical bills, loss of wages and pain and suffering.
If you have suffered injuries because of a fall at a construction site, contact our New York City construction accident lawyers for more information about your legal options.