The reaction to construction worker Christina Ginesi’s fatal work accident perfectly illuminates the problems within The Department of Buildings in New York City. Ginesi, you may remember, fell more than 20 stories while working on an elevator during a job at a hotel in Manhattan. His death sparked a fair amount of media coverage and led to an investigation into the entities responsible for safety at the site. We hope his family and friends continue to be strong and cope with this terrible tragedy.
Sadly, they are reading this morning about one of the players at the job site where Mr. Genesi was killed. It must be very troubling to them to learn that one of the companies responsible for safety had a long-standing and shoddy record of protecting workers.
The investigation conducted by The Department of Buildings led to the license of the general contractor, the Rinaldi Group, being suspended. The thrust of the suspension included a troubling history of violating safety rules and for performing work that was not properly approved by The Buildings Department. Interestingly, the violations which were the subject of the suspension were not directly related to the accident that killed Ginesi. Still – – if the agency was properly staffed, would they have you been on the job?
Rinaldi has been cited with serious safety violations 55 different times over the last 2 years. The report indicates that they created conditions that “pose a threat that severely affects life, health, safety, property and the public interest.” They were actively working at 17 different jobsites throughout the city at the time the suspension was levied. Now they are not working at all.
The problem as we see it is that the agency responsible for investigating “bad actors” in the construction industry is wholly unable to be proactive in rooting out those who flaunt safety principles. Rinaldi is only reprimanded because the agency is reacting to the press and attention associated with the Ginesi death. If the Building Department had the appropriate manpower and resources perhaps this accident never happens.
To be fair, Mayor de Blasio has increased funding for the Building Department and plans on hiring a large number of new safety agents. Perhaps this will allow the agency to investigate culprits who ignore long-standing safety principles and prevent accidents like this one rather than react to accidents after they occur. We will be watching. Will things change?
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a law firm committed to fighting on behalf of construction workers and their families. The lawyers at this firm have amassed more than $850 million in verdicts and settlements for their clients. You may learn more about them by reviewing the firm website at www.BlockOToole.com. You may also contact them for a free consultation at 212.736.5300.