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Rodolfo Vasquez-Galian's Death in NYC Construction Accident Illustrates Risks to Immigrants Who Work Construction

Rodolfo Vasquez-Galian, a 27 year-old construction worker, was crushed to death by a collapsing concrete slab at a Manhattan construction site. The New York lawyers at Block O'Toole & Murphy did a blog post yesterday on this construction accident.

Today's post is a follow-up. The tragic accident will be further discussed. We will also highlight how immigrant workers continue to be asked to face jobsite dangers more often than non-immigrant workers.

The harrowing accident took place on West 37th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues, an area booming with construction activity. It occurred while a team of workers was attempting to convert a beaten up building into a posh high-rise hotel. Workers were removing soil beneath the foundation of the building when concrete supporting the foundation of a neighboring building came loose. A heavy concrete slab came down and crushed the helpless victim. Emergency personnel rushed to the scene and firefighters and fellow construction workers desperately tried to lift the slab off of the victim's body. They were unable to stave off the inevitable. Rodolfo Vasquez-Galian was pronounced dead at the scene

A thorough investigation is sure to follow. One of the questions that the investigative agencies, like OSHA and the New York City Department of Buildings, will pose is whether and how the structural stability of the area was evaluated. More specifically, how was the foundation of the building they were working on assessed? Did they undertake an evaluation of the neighboring structures to see if the foundations of those structures were sound and capable of withstanding the pressure imposed by the work they were planning to do? Any time the ground is disturbed during demolition work there is a risk that workers could disturb the foundation of the building being demolished as well as any neighboring buildings. Was this risk assessed? If not, shame on them. If it was, did they fairly account for what may happen to the workers? These answers will be pivotal in determining why this tragedy occurred.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family, friends and co-workers of Rodolfo Vasquez-Galian. This is indeed a senseless loss.

All New Yorkers should have an expectation that they can go to work in a safe and healthy environment. People should not fear that their lives are in jeopardy when they get up in the morning and get ready to go to work. Still, construction work remains the deadliest job in the entire country, with the largest number of fatalities and serious injuries by a wide margin. Construction work also seems to be disproportionately deadly in New York for immigrant workers. In 2012, one-half of all construction workers who were killed during construction related work were immigrants. The percentage of the immigrant workers who are Latino is equally revealing: 40% of all immigrant workers who lost their lives at work in 2012 were Latino.

Why is this happening? Well, one possibility is that immigrant workers are generally required to perform more of the dangerous tasks on a construction jobsite. Also, smaller construction outfits are far more likely to hire immigrant workers. These smaller outfits account for a massive portion of the construction accidents in New York. In fact, 72% of construction related fatalities in New York were at construction sites with small contractors that hire immigrant, non-union workers.

Was Rodolfo Vasquez-Galian asked to perform a dangerous component of this job without regard for his safety? Would he have been exposed to this peril if he were not an immigrant worker?We will likely find out as the investigation unfolds. Let's hope this loss of precious life will somehow lead to a change in the construction industry at large. There needs to be a continued focus on safety. Equally as important, everyone should be afforded the same safety protections and precautions, no matter who they are or where they came from.

Block O'Toole & Murphy is one of the premier construction accident firms in the country. The lawyers at the firm have recovered more than $800,000,000 in verdicts and settlements on behalf of their injured clients. You can learn more about the lawyers and the firm by reviewing their website at

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