A hard-working construction worker lost his life because he was compelled to work on a dangerous scaffold. He fell 8 stories to his death at the posh Dream Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Despite this, there were only a few snippets in the local tabloids, some brief television and radio coverage . . . and then nothing.
Quiet. Abject, Deafening Silence.
Some perspective: a 40 year-old man fell 8 stories to his death only five days ago and the clear reason for his horrific demise is that his employers failed to give him a scaffold that had secure planking. Compounding this, he was not given anything to prevent him from falling should the scaffold fail. The conduct of the people responsible for this is as close to a work related homicide as you can conjure up.
Yet, despite a ongoing investigation, the media barely gave the story a sniff, instead focusing on more important scoops like Lindsey Lohan or who ScarJo dated in high school. It makes you wonder, if the attention we give as a society to tragedies like this dwindles so fast, how quiet and shallow must it feel for the loved ones of this victim? How can we as a society ever hope to make working conditions safer for the folks responsible for building our cities if the perception is we care so little?
Worker safety is a worldwide concern. We hear about catastrophic factory accidents in India and fires in Bangladesh with death tolls that shock the conscience and shake it off with a “ho-hum attitude” that this kind of thing doesn’t happen here. Well take a look: The average number of fatal work injuries, according to OSHA, in the United States for 2011 and 2012 was approximately 4,500 people. An AFL-CIO report claims that a Bureau of Labor Statistics study estimates that 50,000 workers per year die from work-related diseases. Statistically, that means more than 150 people per day are dying because of unsafe work conditions.
If there was a serial killer gunning down 150 people per day, the media coverage would be swarming. The pundits would be inundating the public with updates, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If there was a disease crippling our nation to the tune of 150 deaths a day, physicians would be racing to see who would be the first to come up with the cure. Yet, worker safety is a danger that is blissfully ignored and given little to no attention in the public eye.
This all has to painfully resonate with the family, loved ones and friends of a deceased worker like the man that was killed at the Dream Hotel. If this man was provided a safe scaffold, he would have been able to go home to his family. If he was given the proper fall protection, like a harness, he would have finished work and lived to see another day. Yet, the dark reality is that worker safety was dismissed at this jobsite and a man paid with his life for it.
Attention and media scrutiny will not bring back the dead; nor will it ease the pain that his loved ones are enduring. But, perhaps it will make people all over the world more aware that there is a silent killer roaming among us. The silent, deadly is unsafe work practices. It is not a third-world country problem or a poor person problem; it is an everywhere, every person problem. Working conditions need to improve drastically. No worker should face life or death decisions to earn a living; yet they confront these decisions every day.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a team of New York Serious Injury Lawyers who are committed to helping workers. The firm has amassed more than $750,000,000 in verdicts and settlements on behalf of injured victims. To learn more about these lawyers, you can see their website at www.blockotoole.com. For a free consultation, you can contact them at 212.736.5300