59 year-old Wilfredo Enriques went to work on Friday morning at a construction site in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Tragically, he never made it home.
Enriques, a construction worker that specialized in working with glass, a glazier, was killed while working at 325 Kent Avenue. The location is the site of the revered old Domino Sugar Factory. It was being developed into a $1.5 billion, 11 acre, 16-story mixed use apartment complex with more than 500 rental units, according to the New York Daily News.
Mr. Enriques was installing glass as part of a conversion of the property. He was working between 4 and 6 stories off the ground on a scaffold when he fell at least 4 stories, crashing down on an unforgiving surface. He was rushed to nearby Woodhull Hospital but the doctors were unable to save his life. It was there that he was pronounced dead.
Two Trees Management is the group responsible for running this project. Early reports indicate that Mr. Enriques was not provided with fall protection while he was working on the outside of the building as high as 6 stories off the ground. If this is true then this was a tragedy that was completely preventable. Falls continue to be the most frequent cause of serious construction injuries and deaths, according to the United States Department of Labor. The responsibility for providing a safe place for employees to work and to limit the number of construction site falls rests with general contractors, owners and developers.
OSHA requires that fall protection be employed when workers are laboring at a height greater than 6 feet above the ground. Mr. Enriques was on a scaffold that was more than 4 stories above the ground. So, clearly fall protection was required. What are the available means of fall protection for a worker on a scaffold?
Scaffolds can be made safer if there are guard rails and toe-boards covering all open areas. These safety devices would reduce the likelihood that a worker would fall off of their working platform. A safety harness, if used properly, may provide complete fall protection to a worker. A safety harness is a device that a worker wears like a belt and it connects to a lanyard. The lanyard should then be attached to an anchor point that is stable and secure. This connection will essentially prevent a worker like Mr. Enriques from plunging to the ground – – it will arrest and stabilize his body mid-air in the event of a fall.
The accident investigation in this case will focus on what fall protection was made available to Mr. Enriques and whether the workers were required to wear the protective equipment that could have avoided this fatal fall.
Two Trees is a well-known developer that has capitalized on the explosive growth and gentrification of Downtown Brooklyn. The company, however, is not without its detractors. Many feel that the company has rushed their work in an effort to complete projects, exposing well-meaning workers to untold dangers. Others point to the developer, its massive high rise apartment buildings and lofty prices and suggest that they have stripped neighborhoods of their character and forced the middle class to move onward. Did they provide their workers with a safe opportunity to do their job and return home to their families? Time will tell. It is too early to reach a conclusion about how and why this happened. Seasoned investigators will interview witnesses, examine physical and forensic evidence and reach a well-reasoned determination about the cause of this accident.
In the meantime, family, friends and coworkers of Wilfredo Enriques mourn their untimely loss. Nobody should innocently go to work one day and not be able to return home to their family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of Mr. Enriques.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a team of lawyers that is well-known and regarded for their representation of injured workers and their families. Meet these compassionate lawyers.
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