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NYC Construction Workers & Immigrant Workers

This article is devoted to those Ecuadorian/Latino readers in the construction industry in the New York Metropolitan area. This article is intended to address those readers who are engaged in all areas of construction including new construction, refurbishments, brick-laying, painting, dry walling, pointing and various labor at construction sites. This article should serve as a manual for those readers engaged in these or other construction related activities.

As discussed in the prior article, Section 240 of the New York State Labor Law requires building owners and general contractors of buildings to provide workers with proper scaffolds, hoists, harnesses and other appropriate work site safety equipment for use when working at elevated heights. The most vital role that the law plays is to place the ultimate requirements and implementations of these laws on owners and contractors. As such, owners and contractors cannot avoid liability or shift the burden of responsibility to other workers or subcontractors when elevation related accidents occur.

A recent study undertaken by the New York State Trial Lawyers has found extremely lax and sub-standard safety requirements at construction sites in the New York area. The study found inadequate supervision of city construction sites and that the low penalties imposed on violators make it easy for builders to ignore safety rules. According to the study, inspectors penalized builders at 113 of the accident sites for violations like insufficient guardrails and safety nets. In most cases, fines amounted to no more than $10,000.00; only six of the violations resulted in fines greater than $50,000.00.

The study illustrated two tragic accidents to highlight their point:

  1. In the first, Manuel Falcon, an Ecuadorian construction worker, died after falling from the roof of a house he was working on in South Ozone Park, Queens. Tragically, Mr. Falcon had not been provided any safety equipment, including hard-hat or tethering cord. The violations found by safety federal investigators resulted in minimal fines and penalties in the amount of $2,625.00.
  2. In the second, five workers fell to their deaths when a scaffold at a Gramercy Park office building when a scaffold collapsed. Inspectors found serious violations but only levied $9,750.00 of fines out of a possible maximum of $49,000.00.

Also found were the following:

  • Half of the 156 accidents involved falls from scaffolds, roofs and ladders. Immigrant workers accounted for two-thirds of fall accident victims (injured or killed).
  • Only 28 safety instructors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (the federal agency that polices construction sites) cover construction and renovation sites in New York City, northern New Jersey and Westchester and Rockland Counties. This means that an inspection in these areas could only happen an average of only six sites a day.
  • From 1990 to 2003, a 13-year timeframe, there were only four instances in the U.S. where an at-fault builder was imprisoned.
  • On average, at-fault parties are fined $1,569 for safety violations that could result in injury or death.

When a construction site accident occurs, there are statutes, laws and protections in place to help injured workers recover money damages. In addition to workers compensation benefits, lawsuits can be commenced against owners and contractors for violations of New York State Labor Laws. As has been mentioned in my prior articles, your immigration status has no effect on your right to commence a lawsuit. Whether you are a citizen, holder of a green card or an undocumented alien, you are entitled to the statutory protections afforded by section 240 of the Labor Laws.

Our law firm has represented many construction workers in accident cases. Our investigation team can find the culpable parties and can insure that the insurance companies pay your medical bills and lost wages. We also make sure that the responsible entities pay for your past, present and future pain and suffering as well as your future lost wages. Contact The Law Firm of Steven I. Fried, P.C. today. We fight to protect your legal rights.


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The Law Firm of Steven I. Fried, P.C. - Bronx Personal Injury Attorney
Located at 5600A Broadway, Bronx, NY 10463.
Phone: (212) 964-5777.
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