A 43-year-old construction worker died after he became trapped under slabs of concrete when the ceiling of a Staten Island car dealership in which he was working collapsed. Three other workers were able to escape.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched an investigation, though a cursory review of facts by local media indicate the demolition at the site was un-permitted. The construction firm is the same one cited in 2003 for 13 serious violations, some of which contributed to the death of a 39-year-old worker killed when a 15-foot deep trench collapsed on him. One of those violations was deemed willful, yet the company was fined just $14,000.
One somewhat rare action in the 2003 case was the owner was sentenced to 16 weekends in jail after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide.
Now, our New York City construction accident lawyers understand in addition to OSHA’s investigation, there will be dual investigations into the 43-year-old’s death by the city Buildings Department, as well as local law enforcement. It’s possible that, once again, the company owner could face criminal charges.
This same company was cited just last year for safety violations in relation to this same project. Those violations, which included inadequate job-site fencing and improper storage of explosive materials, were resolved prior to this incident.
In general, construction workers tend to face a greater number of hazards due to the nature of their work. But this is precisely why companies must be meticulous in following relevant statutes and recommended safety protocols. Many companies do, and still, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were 817 construction worker fatalities in 2012, in addition to a rate of non-fatal injuries and illnesses calculated at about 3.7 per 100 workers – far higher than most other occupations.
When companies blatantly disregard the law and safety of workers, they need to be held accountable.
Unfortunately, families of workers killed on the job may have only one source of compensation: Workers’ compensation. This is a no-fault, exclusive remedy solution. Survivors aren’t required to prove negligence on behalf of the employer, but neither will employer be made to pay more through punitive damages even if there was wrongdoing.
There may in some cases be options to pursue third-party litigation in construction accident injuries and fatalities, but that is going to depend on the individual facts of the case. This is why it’s so important to seek the advice of an experienced lawyer as soon as possible – before agreeing to accept the workers’ compensation benefits.
At the time the owner of this company pleaded guilty in connection with the 2003 death, construction contractors were rarely if ever held criminally liable when workers died. There have since been a handful of criminal prosecutions of construction company owners who failed to protect workers. Still in this case, the prosecution did not bar the firm or the owner from continuing to operate.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Construction Worker Dies After Ceiling Collapse at Staten Island Car Dealership, Nov. 28, 2014, By Benjamin Mueller, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
Farias v. Simon – Third-Party Liability of Homeowner in New York Construction Accident, Dec. 12, 2014, New York City Construction Accident Lawyer Blog