One worker was killed and three were injured after a wall collapsed at a Manhattan construction site.

The incident was preceded by the Department of Buildings issuing a stop work order and several safety violations at the site.

Construction work—the deadliest industry in NYC—was particularly deadly in 2022, with worker fatalities reaching the highest total since 2015. The Manhattan death was the first construction accident fatality in NYC this year, but so far in 2023, the City has seen dozens of construction-related injuries, including 26 in January.

Accident Occurs During Demolition Project

On March 7, RJB Contracting Carting Corp. was completing a demolition project on a three-story building at 126 Lafayette Street when a second-floor rear wall collapsed.

One worker was buried under tons of falling rubble. Firefighters quickly arrived on the scene and dug him out, but he later died at Bellevue Hospital. Three more workers were hurt when they fell off a scaffold.

At a press conference, FDNY Chief of Department John Hodgens said, “It’s an unfortunate accident and we are going to be investigating to see how this happened.”

Demolition work on the building began in January. In February, the Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a partial stop work order and five violations at the site. CBS News reports that the violations were related to hazardous materials removal, sprinklers removed out of sequence, unsafe tarps hanging from scaffolding, a construction shanty not made out of fireproof material, and unsafe construction material storage. Work resumed after a three-day pause to correct the violations.

A preliminary DOB review indicates that the fatal accident was caused by an overloaded support beam. The Department initially suggested a connection between the violations and the NYC wall collapse, but later said they were not connected. A full stop work order has been posted at the Lower Manhattan construction site. The order cites “failure to safeguard during demolition operations.”

Incident a Reminder of Construction Worker Risks

It took NYC more than nine weeks to record its first construction death of 2023. In 2022, there were 22 construction-related fatalities in NYC—the highest  number recorded by OSHA since at least 2012, according to The New York Observer.

Construction workers only account for 5% of NYC’s total workforce but account for more than one-quarter of its occupational deaths. Scaffolding work is among the most dangerous in the City’s deadliest industry, an Observer analysis found.

The leading causes of NYC construction accidents in 2020 and 2021 were worker falls, falling materials, and scaffold, fence, or shoring installations, says the DOB. Statewide, Latino workers, who make up a disproportionately high percentage of worker fatalities, were more likely to die on construction sites in 2020. Non-union job sites also bear the brunt of construction accident injuries and fatalities, DOB data shows.

Although construction worker fatalities are on pace to decrease this year from 2022 levels, Local Law 78 incident reporting shines a light on the dangers NYC construction workers face every day. The January 2023 DOB report includes these episodes:

  • January 6: a worker lost their balance and fell from the ladder while insulating pipe. One violation was issued in connection with the incident.
  • January 9: a painter was on a ladder removing plastic protection from lighting and fell off. Two violations were issued.
  • January 12: a worker sustained a cut to his left hand while installing a ceiling access door (2 violations).
  • January 17: a worker slipped and fell on the 7th floor deck he was walking on while installing rebar (3 violations).
  • January 19: a masonry worker was carrying a metal platform and slipped walking up the internal ramp from the first floor to the second floor (2 violations).
  • January 27: a worker was on the 2nd floor deck installing a cable rail fall protection system and loading materials. The covers for mechanical penetrations in the plank were in the process of being installed/secured. The worker stepped backwards and fell through an opening to the cellar level (5 violations).

In addition to facing fines of up to $25,000 per worksite safety violation, construction companies and general contractors could face lawsuits under New York Labor Law, including sections 240 and 241, for NYC construction accidents. New York also recently enacted Carlos’ Law, which increases criminal penalties against construction companies for workers’ deaths or serious injuries.

Discuss Your Rights With Our New York Construction Accident Attorneys

Construction work is inherently dangerous, but that does not mean construction site injuries and fatalities are unavoidable. When corners are cut and workers are harmed as a result, New York law provides several ways for victims to hold negligent parties accountable.

The Sanders Law Firm recently hired construction accident attorney Catherine Fiorentino—a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” in Construction Litigation. Ms. Fiorentino’s hiring gives the firm another highly capable personal injury attorney who can advance the legal cause of injured workers and help to bring greater accountability to the construction industry.

For a free evaluation of your construction accident case call (855) SANDERS or contact us.