New York City construction workers literally put their health and lives at risk each and every day they report to a work site. In previous posts, we've highlighted some of the many dangers these men and women face including fall hazards, construction equipment malfunctions and exposure to hazardous materials.
However, perhaps the greatest threat to construction worker safety comes from employers who blatantly disregard safety regulations and fail to educate and provide workers with adequate training, information and safety gear. All too often the workers who are impacted the most when these types of regulatory and safety violations occur, are young immigrants who speak little to no English.
Earlier this year, a 22-year-old Ecuadorian undocumented immigrant named Carlos Moncayo was killed at a construction site when the trench in which he was working collapsed, crushing his body. In the wake of the young man's death, an investigation revealed that his employers’ blatant disregard for workers' safety and numerous failures to heed warnings by site inspectors contributed to the man's death.
To prevent imminent suffocation, trenches deeper than 5 feet are required to be supported by wood or steel braces. Prosecutors contend that the 13-foot trench in which Mr. Moncayo was working lacked sufficient bracing, a claim that was backed by a work site inspector who warned of a cave-in on the very morning the 22 year old died.
Recently, the "two construction companies and two of their employers," were indicted "on charges of recklessly," causing the man's death. All four of the defendants pleaded not guilty. Last year, there were a total of 231 construction accidents reported in the city. During the first three months of 2015, already 72 work site accidents had been reported, including the one that claimed the 22 year old's life.
Construction workers who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In cases where an injury or death is related to gross safety violations, additional legal action may be taken to recover damages.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Supervisors Ignored Safety Warnings in Construction Worker’s Death: Manhattan District Attorney," Joe Jackson, Aug. 5, 2015