A contractor and site superintendent were suspended following the June 20th collapse of thousands of pounds of building material from the roof of a Queens building, which trapped and seriously injured three construction workers. In response to the disaster, the city has issued suspensions to the general contractor, Ideal Builders and Construction and its site superintendent, Fazal Hassan.
The Department of Buildings (DOB) alleged that the company failed to exercise reasonable care by circumventing standard safety procedures in favor of expediency and lower costs while performing a third-story addition to the Astoria home. Representatives of DOB believe that the superintendent permitted workers to load both cinder blocks and pieces of heavy equipment onto the third floor in an inappropriate and unsafe manner. The third floor, which was newly built, was not secure enough to uphold the weight of the materials as they were loaded and the floor gave way, sending heavy building materials smashing down on the floors below.
As a result of the roof failure, three construction workers were trapped and seriously hurt. In one case, a member of the work crew was stuck under a piece of building material for almost two hours. DOB investigators believe that Hassan, the superintendent of not only this but of 10 other sites, did not first asses the third floor as he should have to ensure that it was capable of supporting heavy weight loaded in an improper manner.
The superintendent’s perceived carelessness has led to the DOB stopping work at approximately 60 other buildings at which Hassan had worked. Despite this incident being the first in which an injury at one of Hassan’s sites was actually reported, DOB representatives say that both he and the contractor by which he is employed, Ideal Builders and Construction, are guilty of at least 14 violations of public safety.
In addressing the matter, DOB commissioner Rick Chandler stated that “Mr. Hassan and his firm neglected their duties on this and other construction sites and showed disregard for the lives of workers and the public.”
Chandler’s statement comes at a time when the number of preventable deaths and injuries are at an all-time high in the construction industry in New York City.
Chandler further stressed that “bad actors in the construction industry need to get the message: the City will not tolerate those who endanger people’s lives.”
The length of Hassan’s suspension is to be decided in a hearing with the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), according to a spokesman with the office. As more facts come to light regarding the specific course of events and safety violations that led to this tragic and utterly preventable event, we must consider why this keeps happening:
- How frequently do such unsafe practices occur on similar sites?
- What other sorts of violations are occurring on similar sites?
- What are the main motives for site supervisors in committing safety violations?
- What regulations/punishments can be imposed to reduce any incentive to “cut corners” and/or to encourage strict adherence to safety standards?
One thing is clear: the current legislation and workplace practices have been doing little to prevent construction worker injuries in the city. According to the most recent summary published by the DOB, there have been 189 accidents leading to 196 injuries through just May of this year.
Though these issues may seem obvious and many might wonder how much safety violations still occur so prevalently, owners and contractors often demonstrate profit-first mentalities, sacrificing worker welfare for increased margins. As advocates for construction worker rights, the attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy remain committed to championing the rights of workers and protecting them from unscrupulous practices by superintendents and site owners.
New York City has long been characterized by skyscrapers that pierce the sky, giving the city its reputation as a “concrete jungle”. As the population grows and the city becomes denser with people, there will certainly be a push for construction projects that stretch the city vertically. Despite the ostensible necessity to continue to build New York to greater heights, it is paramount that we remember to promote the safety and welfare of the workers that make such great projects possible.
If you or anyone else has experienced a workplace injury, our attorneys are available for free consultations and are happy to discuss any questions that you might have. Block O’Toole & Murphy lawyers are experienced in litigating construction accident cases and have recovered numerous verdicts and settlements for injured workers.