One year ago today, on March 15, 2008, New York was stunned and saddened by a deadly tower crane collapse on a high-rise construction site at East 51st Street. The massive 22-story crane crashed down and splintered apart, tragically killing six construction workers and a tourist. The tragic loss was compounded because this incident could have and should have been completely avoided. An investigation revealed that the crane was being raised with the use of only four slings, instead of the appropriate eight, and that one of the four slings was frayed. Six weeks later, another deadly crane collapse on the upper-east side further drove home the reality that construction work is extremely dangerous, and that New York City construction accidents, which often involve work at significant heights, can be particularly catastrophic.
The New York State legislature has a long history of recognizing the dangers of construction work, and the special need to protect workers from gravity-related dangers. In 1885, a landmark statute was passed protecting workers from scaffold-related accidents. In the 1920’s, that statute was re-drafted to its modern-day form; New York Labor Law Section 240(1). Section 240(1) is designed to prevent incidents such as the deadly crane collapse whose anniversary we sadly reflect on now. Indeed, the absolute liability imposed on owners and contractors in connection with gravity-related construction injuries has indisputably prevented thousands of similar tragedies from occurring over the years. That is because the threat of 240(1) liability causes developers, owners, and contractors to be far more cautious than they would otherwise be. Daniel O Toole, a partner with the construction injury law firm Block O Toole & Murphy and a recently appointed officer with the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, is calling on the legislature to take action to avoid any further senseless tragedies. We need to expand the laws to protect workers; not contract them. Cutting corners on safety measures by profit-driven owners and contractors that puts hard-working people at risk will not be tolerated, said O Toole.
At Block O Toole & Murphy, we proudly fight for the rights of construction workers who have been injured or killed on the job by representing them in personal injury actions and working tirelessly to procure substantial verdicts and settlements on their behalf. We are always saddened when we are approached by a catastrophically injured worker or his family. But we are driven by the knowledge that giving voice to the worker’s pain will provide financial and emotional comfort to his family, hold the responsible parties accountable, and send an important message to all owners and contractors involved in ongoing and future construction projects – if you fail to protect your workers from harm, a light will be shined on you and you will not escape responsibility for the damage you have caused. O Toole, a chairperson on the New York State Trial Lawyers Labor Law Committee, added, We understand hard-work and how important it is to be able to provide for your family. It makes the fight personal for us.
The construction accident law firm Block O Toole & Murphy is committed to helping preserve existing legislation such as Section 240(1) that protects workers, and to expand the rights and protections afforded workers. Let us remember the sad events of last year, and may that story inspire us to continue our vigilant pursuit of justice, both in the courtroom and in the legislature, for our honorable construction workers of New York.