Recently in Construction Accidents Category

Construction Workers Injured When Building Collapses

March 12, 2014

On February 26, 2014 eight construction workers were injured in a construction accident when the three story building, located at 1916 Prospect Place in Brooklyn, collapsed. The workers were inside the building, on the third floor, when it collapsed, causing them to plummet to the first floor.

These construction workers were sent inside the building, despite numerous open violations with the New York City Department of Buildings, which indicated the hazardous condition of the building. At the time of the accident, according to the records of the New York City Department of Buildings, the property located at 1916 Prospect Place had sixteen open violations issued by the Department of Buildings, as well as over $80,000 in unpaid fines issued as a result of these violations. Of these sixteen open violations eight were listed with a class - 1 severity, indicating that the violation was immediately hazardous.

In New York, a property owner can be held liable for injuries caused by an allegedly defective condition, if the owner either creates the defective condition, or has actual or constructive notice of the condition. This means a property owner can be held liable for injuries caused by defective conditions which the owner either knew about, or should have known about.

As a construction worker, you are entitled to a safe working environment. Construction companies, site owners, developers and other related parties bear the responsibility for worker safety. If you have been injured at a construction site or in a workplace accident contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your case.

Bombs to Battle Bugs Cause Building Collapse

July 17, 2013

Creepy crawlies belong outside, not in houses. People try many different methods to discourage bugs from entering their homes, whether it be a house or an apartment. There are many products one can use to kill bugs and keep them out of the home. But these products contain a lot of chemicals and can harm humans as much as bugs. And one needs to be cautious because these chemicals are highly flammable, as was shown in the fogger explosion in Chinatown recently.

Exploding Bug Bombs

A woman had a problem with bugs infesting her apartment. She purchased foggers, also known as bug bombs, to deal with the problem. Foggers release a fine mist of chemicals into the air that will filter into walls and small places to kill bugs. "A single six-ounce can is enough to treat 6,000 cubic feet of space, which translates roughly to an 800-square-foot apartment with a seven-foot ceiling."

The woman used about 20 foggers in the bedroom of her two-room apartment on one day. The next day she used another 20 foggers in her main room. "However, she failed to turn off her oven's pilot light, and the meeting of the flame and the highly flammable contents set off a powerful explosion, fire officials said." The explosion blew out the back wall of the building and collapsed part of the building.

Pest Control

Pesticide chemicals are highly poisonous and volatile. The Environmental Protection Agency published a Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. The guide details how pesticides should be handled and applied. It also goes through precautions to prevent child poisoning.

There are a number of different types of pesticides. They tend to be grouped according to either the targeted pest or the chemical families they derive from. They can be solid form where the targeted insect eats the insecticide. There are sticky tapes used to physically trap insects. And there are liquid forms in spray cans and foggers.

Government statistics state that "every year there are about 500 fires or explosions linked to [foggers] across the country." Foggers may appear easy to use, pull the tab and leave the residence, but many people are not using them correctly. Foggers do not work against bedbugs and are not the most effective defense against cockroaches. And once a person has set off a fogger, they must wait a number of hours before reentering the residence and opening windows for proper ventilation. Without following these requirements, many people end up poisoned.

Pesticides Can Lead to Legal Liability

While the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is a good axiom to follow when dealing with pest control, things can still go wrong. Just because you followed the instructions on the product doesn't mean you can't get poisoned and become ill. If you decide to go the professional route, you could still become ill. If you have been injured by use of pesticides and used them according to all instructions, there is a possibility the pesticide was not properly labeled. If you get ill after a professional treatment, the pesticide company may not have been following proper protocol or given proper instructions on what to do after the treatment is complete. If you have questions, contact our knowledgeable attorneys to assess your situation.

See Related Posts:

Toxic Mold and Sick Buildings - How to Protect Yourself

When Are Property Owners Liable for Injuries on Their Property?

Recent Declines in Construction Site Safety Lead to Injuries and Deaths

February 27, 2013

Over the past year, jobsite injuries have been regularly making the news. According to the New York Daily News, it turns out that workplace accidents actually increased in New York by 31 percent from 2011 to 2012, while the New York Buildings Department cut its number of worksite inspections by nearly 40 percent in the past three years. An article in PR Web echoed these figures, calling for more oversight in the construction industry. What do these numbers mean for you? If you or someone you know works in the construction industry, it turns out that jobsites may not be as safe as we'd like to think.

What Sparked the Investigation into Jobsite Accidents?

The New York Daily News introduced concerns about jobsite-accident increases by summarizing some of the newsworthy injuries over the past year.

For example, last spring, a steel beam at a warehouse in Harlem had a crack that was in "plain view," as it was "visibly sagging, in danger of collapse." Breeze Demolition, the contractor, continued to work despite having knowledge of the decaying beam, and the buildings department received no report concerning the potential danger at the construction site. The following morning, Juan Vincente Ruiz, a 69-year-old laborer, arrived to work in the building's basement. While he chipped away at a brick wall with a sledgehammer, the floor overhead gave way due to the decaying steel beam. The accident was fatal. Ruiz died of "massive head trauma."

More recently, USA Today reported the injury of seven construction workers when a crane collapsed in Queens. The crane was 35 stories high. Although there were no fatalities, dozens of workers had been at the site when the crane fell, and three of the injuries were serious. New York Crane and Equipment Company, the owner of the crane, was involved in a 2008 accident where a crane collapsed and killed two workers on the Upper East Side. James Lomma, the company's owner, was charged with criminally negligent homicide and later acquitted.

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2010 and 2011, construction fatalities jumped from 28 to 40 in the New York Metro area alone. And since the buildings department is conducting fewer worksite inspections--the number of inspections dropped from 244,000 in 2009 to only 141,000 in 2012--there is less accountability for wrongdoing. In fact, "notices of violations dropped by 6,600 from 2011 to 2012."

More Inspections Needed to Prevent Injuries and Deaths

The New York Buildings Department has been relying on contractors to police themselves, but the statistics show that this isn't working. Tony Sclafani, a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings, indicated that his agency has encouraged workers and employers to "take proper safety precautions at all times." Yet, worksite accidents and injuries have noticeably increased in the city.

Statistics show that when contractors are tasked with being the "eyes and ears" of jobsite safety, the "end result is injury and even death." The involvement of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has resulted in significant investigations in the aftermath of some of these accidents, but that involvement isn't preventative. In fact, OSHA has issued fines at numerous construction sites in the city, but it doesn't seem to have had a deterrent effect on current contractors who are often "blind and deaf" to the safety hazards at their construction areas.

While an increase in inspections seems to be the only solution, it's important to keep in mind that construction companies, site owners, developers, and other related parties bear the responsibility for worker safety. If you have been injured at a construction site or in a workplace accident, contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your case.

See Related Blog Posts:
An Employer's Liability for an Employee's Actions
Do You Know What to Do If You're Injured?

Fracking Contaminating New Yorkers' Water?

August 12, 2011

The drilling industry maintains that fracking is harmless to water supply, but scientific studies, including an old one by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), show otherwise. Fracking is the procedure whereby water, sand, and/or toxic chemicals are imbued to the ground to break up rocks and release natural gas. For years, settlements between landowners and energy companies have been sealed, making it impossible for the public to analyze documents which may show many more instances of water contamination by fracking than already discerned.

The EPA study revolves around contamination discovered in 1984 in West Virginia, on the property of Mr. James Parsons. The Kaiser Exploration and Mining Company used hydraulic fracturing fluids or gels that were ultimately found in Mr. Parson's water well, along with natural gas. The water was rendered unusable. Though the American Petroleum Institute conceded this was a case of water contamination due to fracking, a spokesman averred that the important factor in that case was that the driller and regulator did not know about the nearby aquifer. Other scientific studies have found that patterns of fracking contamination can aggregate so severely that a faucet can be lit on fire, or a home or water well may blow up after gas seeps into the basement or water supply. The drilling industry and some state regulators described these other adverse fracking incidents as anecdotal, unconnected to drilling activity, or an isolated problem.

The oil and gas industry claims fracking is safe because the process occurs thousands of feet below drinking water aquifers. The Chief Executive of ExxonMobil has gone so far as to say at a Congressional hearing: "There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one, not one, reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing. Not one". Clearly this is contrary to the EPA finding, which was published in 1987, as well as other documented instances in New York, Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Now, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is battling federal agencies over their proposed regulations, which could affect drinking water of 9 million New Yorkers, as they will allow fracking at over 15,000 gas wells without a full environmental review. "Schneiderman's suit seeks to halt the regulations until the commission complies with the National Environmental Policy Act's requirement for a full review of all health and safety risks". The lawsuit has the potential to shut down gas development for years in a region that covers one of the largest natural gas formations in the world. The case, New York v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 11- cv-2599, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn), will be consolidated with another case brought by Delaware Riverkeeper Network. It is anticipated that other interest groups, such as Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, will file similar suits.

Members of the American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, and U.S. Oil & Gas Association, including pipeline operators, natural gas producers, and other businesses, could be economically affected. On the other hand, copious events show water contamination complaints subsequent to the execution of fracking in the vicinity. As a further exemplar, upwards of 2,000 natural gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania, resulting in "hundreds of violations of water pollution laws," according to Schneiderman's complaint, which also cites an April 19 Chesapeake Energy Corporation natural gas well blowout.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis held the New York case to be "regulatory", "statutory" and "constitutional", and thus, found that the U.S. can move to dismiss it. The U.S. court papers showed it plans to seek dismissal of the case on the grounds that the state can not prove injury and does not have the right to sue federal agencies. Trade groups have standing to file briefs on the U.S. motion to dismiss while they seek more formal status to intervene.

Another proposal, by New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, is for the inception of a fund comprised of fees paid by drillers to clean up environmental damage from natural gas drilling using high volume fracking. It would also require natural gas production players in New York to post a bond to cover potential contamination liability.

Resources:
The New York Times, A Tainted Water Well, and Concern There May be More, Ian Urbina, 08.03.2011.

Bloomberg Businessweek, U.S. Can Try to End New York Fracking Lawsuit, Judge Rules, Tiffany Kary, 08.10.2011.


The Wall Street Journal, DiNapoli Proposes 'Fracking' Fund, 08.10.2011.

By Kathleen Beatty

Worker Dies at Queens Construction Site

January 21, 2011

Labor Law § 240(1), a New York State statute, imposes upon owners and general contractors a non-delegable duty to provide proper and adequate safety devices to afford protection to construction workers working on a building or structure subject to elevation-related hazards. No matter how stringent the safety standards are in New York regarding construction, all construction laborers are at risk every single day while on the job.

Any breach of the statute will impose absolute liability upon the owner and general contractor at the construction site. Moreover, negligence of the injured construction worker is of no consequence against a Labor Law §240(1) claim. This statute, along with Labor Law §241(6) and §200 (codification of common law standards) allows an injured construction worker to recover monetary damages for injuries suffered in a construction site accident.

Earlier this month, a wall collapsed at a construction site in Rego Park, Queens on January 10, 2011, killing a construction worker and seriously injuring three other workers at the site. This was the first construction death recorded in New York City this year, according to New York City's Department of Buildings. The accident occurred as two workers were perched atop the wall, which was 18 feet tall, pouring concrete into the spaces in the cinder block wall, when it collapsed. There were two workers on the ground near the wall and beneath the scaffolding when the wall began to collapse.

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