Strides have been made to make construction worksites safer over the years. However, in a tragic late March accident, a 69-year-old New York construction worker died and two others were seriously injured when a building collapsed around them. The building, a warehouse owned by Columbia University, was built in 1915 and was being demolished as part of a university expansion project in West Harlem.
The top story of the two-story warehouse had already been taken down. The three workers were cutting a structural beam when it gave way and the remainder of the building collapsed, burying them in debris. The two workers who survived the New York construction accident were taken to a hospital with serious injuries.
Work on the project has been suspended while an investigation is completed.
Demolition Company Had Checkered Past
The Breeze National Company was in charge of carrying out the demolition. Breeze has had its past difficulties. In 2007 the city refused to issue a license to Breeze to haul construction debris. The city put Breeze on a caution list and has avoided doing business with the company ever since.
In 2010, another Breeze employee died working on the same Columbia expansion project when he fell into an elevator shaft in another building. The Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigated the death. OSHA later issued several safety violation citations for improper scaffolding, an open unguarded elevator shaft and general failure to safeguard workers.
In early March 2012, just days before the warehouse collapse, the Department of Buildings cited Breeze for failing to provide safety harnesses for workers and to notify the Department that it had started the demolition.
Families of New York construction workers killed or injured on the job are right to question whether their loved ones' safety was properly protected on the job. If an employer is found liable for an accident, those injured or surviving family could receive compensation to help pay for expenses incurred, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Source: New York Times, "Construction Worker Killed in Building Collapse in Manhattan," Al Baker, Mar. 22, 2012.