Two catastophic construction accidents in the month of January, both in Queens, New York, have once again underscored the importance of construction site safety. The State of New York has long employed a bevy of Labor Laws which were specifically designed to protect construction workers and to avoid accidents resulting in serious injury and death. The Labor Law requires owners and contractors to provide workers at construction sites with a safe place to work and to comply with various regulations, including a multitude of requirements where workers have been positioned on a scaffold or other above-ground location. Unfortunately, despite these strict regulations, owners and contractors frequently cut corners, ignoring the issue of safety and putting workers at risk. As a result, the number of workers who have suffered serious injuries or death in construction accidents in New York is far too high.
Recently, on Jan. 8 a crane collapsed at 46th Avenue and Center Boulevard in Queens, where new modern condominiums were being built on the waterfront, trapping several people and injuring seven. While there was no immediate explanation for why the crane, at 46-10 Center Boulevard, just behind the famous Pepsi-Cola sign on the East River, collapsed, an investigation has been ongoing since the incident. The mangled red crane smashed onto plywood and concrete, and wreckage could be seen stretching for hundreds of feet.
The construction site is a planned 26-story residential tower, part of a development project by TF Cornerstone. The concrete subcontractor, Cross Country Construction of Elmsford, N.Y., was responsible for the work currently under way. The New York Crane and Equipment Corporation, which owns the crane, was involved in a 2008 accident in Manhattan that left two people dead. The company’s owner, James F. Lomma, was tried and acquitted on charges of manslaughter in connection with that case. While many questions remain to be answered as to why this accident occurred, it is clear that proper precautions were not taken to ensure that the crane’s stability and safety.
A second devastating accident occurred just yesterday in Queens when a construction worker died after he plummeted into a 10-feet-deep hole. Authorities have indicated that the worker fell into a construction ditch at 45-11 Broadway, hitting his head on a steel girder. The worker was taken to Mt. Sinai Queens Hospital, where he died of his injuries.
The Department of Buildings issued a stop-work order during the ongoing investigation of the accident. Work at the site, being developed by Centex Builders, was stopped last March when neighbors said the excavation was causing their houses to sink. Unfortunately, work resumed at the building and the tragic events of yesterday ultimately took place. It remains to be seen whether proper and adequate safety precautions were taken to protect this worker and others at the site.
What has always been clear with regard to construction site safety is that the failure to make safety of predominance importance can have devastating ramifications. Owners and general contractors must follow City and State rules and regulations and must make worker safety a priority. Clearly, safety should not be sacrificed to finish a job quicker or cheaper. It is when shortcuts are taken that accidents like the two discussed above tragically occur.
The Law Offices of Marc S. Albert, with offices in Astoria, Queens and Great Neck, Long Island specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice litigation. www.msainjurylaw.com