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Causes of Construction Accidents in New York City

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

Since it was founded in 1971, Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP has been in the forefront of protecting the rights of construction workers and their families. The construction industry in NYC has changed since our founding, but unfortunately, one fact holds as true today as it did in 1971: the construction workers of New York City are still being injured with alarming frequency.

The attorneys at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP are frequently called upon by other lawyers and professional organizations to discuss the reasons why construction accidents in NYC still occur with frightening regularity. Many people think that the accidents mainly involve smaller non-union job sites where immigrant worker safety is sacrificed for greater profits for their employers. While this certainly does occur on a regular basis, the bigger construction companies who “should know better” are also sacrificing worker safety for greater profits or sometimes simply cutting corners because the supervisors could not be bothered to do what is right.

One of our cases involved a very large construction company in upstate New York which was building a multi-million dollar sewage treatment plant in Syracuse. Our client was an engineer who worked at night, alone at the job site. The day of his accident, a 40 foot ladder was placed leading into the “pit” where the work was being performed. At the time the ladder was installed it was missing a stabilizer foot. Rather than get a new ladder, the foreman on the job instructed a worker to support the ladder by using a piece of wood.

This was a complete violation of all OSHA safety regulations. When our client arrived at work nobody told him about the defective ladder. He started his work by climbing down the ladder and then attempted to climb out of the pit. Not surprisingly, the ladder dislodged and he fell over 25′ and landed on his back on a large concrete drainage pipe. As a result of this fall, he fractured his back, required several surgeries and was totally disabled from working ever again. This was a proud union member who was the primary support of his wife and four children. Needless to say, this devastated his family. Construction litigation senior partner Thomas P. Giuffra tried this case, and it came out at trial that a replacement ladder would have cost the contractor $200.00. It is shocking to think that a man and his family were destroyed over such a small amount. Needless to say the jury agreed and Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP’s client won his case.

In New York City, some of the largest construction projects have shocking number of violations for unsafe work practices. The New York Daily News investigated the violations issued to Turner Construction, one of the largest contractors in New York State, for their work on the Madison Square Garden renovation. Turner Construction was issued seventy safety violations for this job. To think that one of the largest contractors in New York have such a callous attitude towards worker safety is simply shocking. Turner Construction does know better and choose to sacrifice the safety of every man and woman on this site.

The violations issued by the New York City Department of Buildings were the most safety violations issued for any construction site in the NYC , according to records obtained by the Daily News. The fines issued to Turner Construction for the safety violations at the MSG site totaled an astronomical $94,600. In 2012, Turner was cited for 90 safety violations, for the MSG site as well as eight other sites in NYC. Turner Construction was issued with the most safety violation of any builder in NYC, a record which is shameful.

The MSG violations included failing to use basic jobsite safety equipment such as guardrails or toe boards. This type of safety equipment is inexpensive to install and protects workers from deadly falls. It has been the experience of the lawyers at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP that contractors sometimes avoid using fall protection because it slows down the progress of the job and delay cuts into profits. However, construction worker falls are the most common and most dangerous construction accidents. Preventable falls from a height are the number one cause of construction worker fatalities and account for up one-third of the total on-the-job injury deaths in the industry. While unfortunately common, falls are one of the most preventable types of construction accident. A simple inexpensive guard rail could save a worker’s life and are required by law to be used at construction sites. Sadly, despite their being many safety laws in place, some contractors would rather try to get away with not following the law at the expense of the safety and well-being of construction workers.

Since its founding in 1971, Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP has fought to protect the rights of the those who have been injured. Our firm is committed to helping our clients and their families get through a very hard time. Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP has been recognized as one of the best law firms in New York City in personal injury law. All of our partners have been recognized as among the top attorneys in the personal injury field. The construction accident attorneys at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP have extensive experience and expertise which has resulted in verdicts and settlements for our clients in excess of $1 billion. Our attorneys are available for a free consultation at (212) 684-1880.

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