A case can be made for construction workers being the unsung heroes of our times. The buildings that make our city so great, from the most glorious skyscraper, to the more modest apartments that keep our boroughs teeming with life, are put up with the skilled and tireless dedication of construction workers. Our diverse and fascinating populace owe a lot to these men and women who, day in and day out, risk their lives to build the edifices we live, work and play in. And though they may be unheralded, they should never be unsafe. At Kaplan Lawyers PC we believe that those responsible for constructing and maintaining safe structures for us should likewise be kept safe throughout the entirety of the construction process.
Unfortunately, accidents are not entirely uncommon in the workplace. And since the materials construction workers often deal with are so huge in scope (concrete slabs, tremendous rafters of dense wood, etc.), the consequences of mishaps (should they occur), are, correlatively, also large. Case in point: this week, in the Meatpacking District of lower New York City, a 22-year old worker was killed when the wall that he was “shoring up” collapsed on top of him. He was rushed to Lenox Hill hospital for treatment but succumbed to his injuries and died later that day. The building itself had been reported for numerous code violations over the past half-decade, and passers-by had lodged complaints concerning particulate and debris raining down from the second of the structure’s two stories. So far, available information about the accident itself is at a minimum.
However, this accident sheds light on one of the many risk factors involved in the daily life of a construction worker. Obviously, a dangerous cycle is in play: walls (and ceilings) that are intact and certifiably structurally sound do not require the attention of maintenance men or women. The aforementioned wall that claimed this young man’s life in the Meatpacking District last Monday, however, could have injured or killed a pedestrian had the problem not been addressed. Walls or ceilings that are deteriorating, and are thus dangerous, do indeed need to be visited by qualified laborers. But how do we make sure that the walls are stable enough to be worked on? How can we make certain that they will not collapse on those tasked with repairing them?
There are a few steps foremen can take in order to prevent wall collapses of this kind:
- Make sure all bracing elements are in place while the concrete is allowed to set. Double-channel braces, buttressed by adjustable tubular braces may be utilized vertically in order to stabilize high structures.
- Make sure all such equipment is checked (and double-checked) in order to avoid malfunction. A qualified professional will be able to confirm that all safety equipment is in working order.
- Likewise, make sure all tools used are also up-to-date and safe to use. Also make sure that they are used in the hands of trained, well-informed professionals.
- Make sure the bracing equipment is anchored properly and sufficiently.
- Make sure the design of the buttressing equipment is appropriate for the wall in question. The correct support system may vary project-to-project. Remember, everyone involved, in both the construction and the repair of buildings, is equally responsible for ensuring a safe environment for all participants. The architects and engineers that are consulted for advice are just as liable for providing accurate, high-quality assessments and suggestions as the on-site foremen and workers are responsible for working carefully and cleanly.
- Do not use freestanding concrete structures as storage space for non-essential items. Meaning, during the preliminary edification stages, do not place tools or allow passage over concrete walls. A wall should be deemed 100% complete before its load-bearing properties are tested.
- Make sure someone, the foreman or otherwise, is in charge of overseeing the reparation of a faulty wall.
- Other than operatives directly needed for the job at hand, clear the area of employees. There is no need for extraneous hands incurring unnecessary injuries in the chance of an accident.
In January, the destructive force of toppling walls was on display as well, when a Red Hook factory’s cement wall crumbled atop a nearby truck, flattening it completely. Luckily, the flattened vehicle was unoccupied at the time of the incident, and no injuries were reported.
Collapsed walls are a very specific subclass of construction accidents, the complete breadth of which are expansive and devastating to both construction workers themselves, as well as their families and their friends. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a construction accident of any kind, you must already be facing the daunting prospect of addressing medical bills while simultaneously missing work. At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we can help you win compensation that will alleviate your financial concerns while you focus on what’s most important: restoring your health. If you’re unsure where to start, our free and easy consultations are a great way to begin learning about where you stand and your rights as a laborer.