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City council speaker calls for better safety inspection system

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Personal Injury on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Are New York City construction sites and equipment adequately inspected, or is there a flaw in the system? This is a question being asked after the third fatal construction accident involving a crane collapse in four years occurred on Manhattan’s far west side on April 3, killing a construction worker. The crane rig was exempt from many city construction safety rules because the project was being conducted by an independent New York State agency, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). The MTA was constructing an extension of the No. 7 subway line.

On Wednesday, the day after the accident, NYC Council speaker Christine Quinn noted that if the project had been under the control of the city, it would have been in violation of several city safety regulations. She told reporters that first responders had noticed several city code violations such as unguarded ledges that could have resulted in fines, had they been under the city’s oversight. The MTA, however, says that the project was already under the jurisdiction of the city, because the work was being performed on city-owned property.

An independent construction safety expert stated that the most likely cause of the collapsed boom was a snapped hoisting cable. However, he cautioned that it was impossible to suggest a cause without examining the site and equipment. The crane, built by the Manitowoc Company, was more than two decades old. It is smaller than those used on sky-scraper projects, but is ideal for lifting weights of 200 to 230 tons.

Source: Washington Post, “NYC crane that collapsed, killing worker, was due for follow-up inspection,” Apr. 3, 2012. 

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Who’s to Blame: Architect or Contractor?

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Construction Accidents on Friday, November 11th, 2011

A construction worker died when a building under construction collapsed on Tuesday, November 8. The 14 unit condominium building was also the subject of neighbourhood complaints about working at night. The owner of the property stated that he was unaware of the complaints and did not know why the building collapsed.

The city’s commissioner of buildings noted that the collapse may have been caused by improper concrete pouring techniques. Apparently the workers were pouring concrete from the top down, possibly creating an imbalance that could have caused the collapse. Standard technique is to pour concrete from the bottom so that lower stories can support the upper stories. Some have speculated that the contractor was trying to save time.

The building, which now has a stop work order pending investigation of the accident, was designed by the architectural firm of Bricolage Architecture and Design. Owners of the firm, Douglas Pulaski and Henry Radusky are known to have ignored building regulations in the past, according to assemblyman James Brennan (D-Park Slope). According to the Daily News, Brennan requested some years ago that the buildings department review all projects undertaken by the firm.

The city has issued violation notices to the construction company, SP&K Construction, with more expected as investigation of the collapse continues.

Source: The New York Daily News, “Architects of Brighton Beach condo in deadly collapse had history of flouting regulations“, Nov. 10l 2011.

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New York construction workers fall to their death

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Construction Accidents on Friday, February 11th, 2011

Construction is one of the most dangerous lines of business. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) puts numerous restrictions in place to protect workers, sometimes that is not enough. Some employers ignore the safety regulations. In other situations, there are simply more dangers than can be accounted for in a list of rules. Scaffolding, ladders and beams fall, and without intentional and appropriate safety measures, anyone working on them can get hurt.

Earlier this week, two construction workers in the Upper West Side of New York fell to their death when OSHA regulations were ignored. The men were working on the seventh floor of a building when the beam on which they were standing fell, and the men fell to the second floor. According to the New York Post, the two men were not wearing safety harnesses. In addition to harnesses, OSHA also requires safety nets be used when individuals are working at elevated heights. These safety regulations were ignored.

Since construction on the building began in late 2009, there have been other safety violations as well. As recently as Sunday, a building inspector issued a violation because there was loose aluminum and tarps on the roof of the building. Last June there were complaints because the workers were storing scaffolding on the building’s roof.

Because of the safety violations and expired building permits, construction was stopped at that point for about a month. Unfortunately, the recent deaths make it apparent that safety regulations are still not taken seriously.

Under New York State Labor Law section 240, which was enacted to protect construction workers from accident just like this one, responsibility for safety devices is placed on the owner and the general contractor because they have the power to insure that proper safety devices and on the site and used by all workers.

Check back later to read more about the safety standards that were violated and the investigations underway by the Department of Buildings.

Source: New York Post, “Two construction workers die after fall on Upper West Side,” Jamie Schram and Joe Walker, 8 February 2011

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Wall Collapse Causes First NYC Construction Fatality of 2011

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Construction Accidents on Friday, January 14th, 2011

Earlier this week, a New York City construction worker lost his life in the first fatal construction accident of the new year. One man was killed and three others were seriously injured when a wall collapsed at a Queens construction site.

The 26-year-old worker was pouring concrete into the spaces in a cinder block wall when the wall collapsed, taking the scaffolding the man was on with it. He and one other man were trapped between the scaffold and the wall, while two others who were on top of the wall at the time were also injured in the construction accident.

Although first responders arrived very quickly after the accident, they were not able to save the man’s life. He died after going into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. The other three men involved in the collapse suffered fractured bones and trauma. They were listed in critical but stable condition on Monday afternoon.

This accident follows multiple building violations at the work site. The Department of Buildings reported that the construction site had received notice of six violations since work began in June 2009. Those violations were primarily for problems like having construction equipment on the sidewalk or not posting proper signs regarding the construction.

The city has ordered work be stopped at the site until the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as the New York City Department of Buildings conduct their investigations. They are working to determine what caused the wall to collapse and who is responsible for the accident.

New York City laws offer significant protections to injured workers and the families of those who suffer wrongful death at construction sites. The contractor and property owner will likely be responsible for the men’s medical bills, lost wages and other damages as well as wrongful death compensation for the family of the man who died.

Sources: New York Times, “Wall Collapse at Queens Construction Site Kills One Worker and Injures Three,” Liz Robbins and Mick Meenan, 10 Jan 2011

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Trial Over Deadly Crane Collapse Ends in Acquittal

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Construction Accidents on Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The crane rigger accused of negligence and corner cutting prior to a deadly New York City crane collapse was acquitted yesterday by a New York Judge. Seven people died in the 2008 construction accident, including six construction workers and one tourist. Dozens more were injured in the collapse and millions of dollars were lost in damages.

The rigger, William Rapetti, had been charged with manslaughter and, if convicted, faced up to 15 years in prison. The prosecution, New York building officials and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) all fingers Rapetti for the construction accident.

The collapse was blamed on the failure of heavy-duty polyester straps, used by Rapetti to fasten a steel collar to the crane. The steel collar, in turn, helped attach the crane to the building under construction.

Though the crane’s manufacturer urged the use of eight such straps, Rapetti secured it with only four. He was also accused of using at least one strap that was seriously frayed and failed to protect the straps from the crane’s metal edges.

When the worn strap broke, it forced more pressure onto the remaining three straps and broke them as well. With the collar now unsecured, it plummeted down the crane, tearing loose similar steel collars below.

Rapetti’s legal team argued that he had followed accepted safety standards and, in his ruling, the judge appears to have accepted the argument. The defense also claimed that shoddy welding and structural errors were more to blame for the construction accident than Rapetti’s rigging job.

Related Resource

  • Rigger acquitted in deadly ’08 NYC crane collapse (The Associated Press)

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