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MTA Worker Killed In Fall After Protective Rail Breaks

An MTA worker fell to his death on the early morning of Tuesday, March 20 after a protective wooden railing broke while he leaned on it.

St. Clair Zaire Stephens Richards, 23, was only six months on the job when co-workers heard a shout and saw their co-worker lying flat on the ground below. He had suffered head trauma, and though EMS arrived and performed CPR, he died about an hour later.

The accident, which occurred in East Harlem at the E. 125th St. Station, led to mass transit delays-but much of the fallout has been centered on why exactly Stephens fell.

Initially, Tony Utano, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, said that "the railing did break" before Stephens suffered his fatal fall. "All our members are going to be talked to, to see exactly what the hell went wrong here."

NYC Transit Authority President Andy Byford has since confirmed, however, that "we think St. Clair leaned on the railing and it gave way," noting that an investigation will reveal more information. Byford has also sent out teams to install "much tougher" fiberglass railings in the tunnel where Stephens fell. Byford added that the NYC Transit Authority "will be looking to check the remaining conditions of any railings that are there and if necessary to replace them with more robust railing."

MTA workers are not happy with this situation, and particularly take issue with Tony Utano's initial comment that Stephens was a "big worker."

To make their voices heard, MTA workers filled the downtown platform of the 125th St. Station at Lexington Ave. "Why did he bring up his weight, and not the infrastructure?" asked Tramell Thompson, a conductor who works mostly on the Q train. "Why didn't he hold the MTA responsible?"

The MTA, like any other employer in New York City, has an obligation to protect its workers from falls, which are one of the most common causes of injury and death across all workplaces. From 2011-2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded a shocking 4,576 worker deaths attributed to "Fall, slip or trip," the second leading non-violent cause over that time.

Workplace Fatalities Due To Fall, Slip or Trip.PNG

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Whatever the outcome of the investigation into Stephens's death, this incident is further evidence that on-the-job falls can happen for a variety of reasons-many of which are preventable. Some of these reasons include:

  • Wet, greasy, dusty or muddy floors
  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Freshly cleaned or waxed floors
  • Loose flooring, carpeting or mats
  • Damaged or broken steps
  • General clutter or debris
  • Weather hazards such as rain, frost or ice

Falls can happen anywhere and at any time, and if employers cut corners and an employee is injured or killed as a result, somebody needs to be held responsible.

The attorneys at Block O'Toole & Murphy have more than 300 verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million each under our belt, including many cases involving falls. To learn more about how Block O'Toole & Murphy could help you, please call us at 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form for a free, no-obligation case review. Our lawyers are here to help victims of employer negligence and the fall accidents that can result.

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