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Immigrant worker dies after being buried in trench

The family of an immigrant worker has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against his employer after the employee died in a trench collapse. The employee had apparently not been supplied with a helmet, escape ladder, or shoring to the inside of the trench that may have prevented the collapse from ever taking place.

It appears that the worker was buried alive and that he died of massive head injuries. The accident occurred in 2010 while a $1,140,000 home construction project was going on. 

The employee's death is an example of a disturbing trend where immigrant workers are injured or killed in construction accidents due to employers failing to provide safety measures that would have prevented these accidents from occurring.

A recent study found that 21 of 29 workplace fatalities at New York construction sites involved immigrant workers. For example, in 2007 two Ecuadorian brothers were washing windows in New York when a scaffolding collapse caused for them to fall 47 stories. Often these workers did not have a good understanding of the English language, and we can also assume that many such employees received inadequate training to perform their job duties safely.

Shortsightedness on the part of employers sometimes results in these construction accidents. Supervisors may decide certain safety measures are too costly to implement, but they fail to take into account the costs that can be associated with workers' injuries or deaths.

Though OSHA or other safety violation fines may provide an incentive for workplaces to improve safety, such fines do little to help the worker after an accident has already occurred. Workers' Compensation laws are implemented to help workers and their families, but these laws are intricate and often require an attorney to interpret what these mean.

Construction workers are engaged in tasks that few of us are willing or able to perform. We owe a duty to keep our construction workers safe by providing safe working conditions, equipment that operates properly, and procedures that are in place that will prevent workers from being injured by others.

We also need to adequately compensate such workers when they are injured.

Source: Greenwich-Post, "Immigrant worker's death prompts lawsuit," by Kait Shea, March 6, 2013

  • Our New York attorneys' webpage contains additional information regarding one's legal options in the event of a construction accident

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