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Construction Worker Erik Mendoza Killed in Roof Fall in Brooklyn Heights

23-year-old construction worker Erik Mendoza was tragically killed when he fell from the roof of a 13-story building at 1 Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights on April 10, 2019. 

The Department of Buildings (DOB) indicated that workers were placing bricks near the building's water tower when the accident occurred at around 10 a.m. Mendoza had been on the job for less than a week when the fatal accident occurred, according to PIX11.

Sadly, Mendoza is the second construction worker to be killed in an on-the-job accident this week, after a worker in Manhattan was killed by falling debris while working on a scaffold.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends that Erik Mendoza leaves behind.

Mendoza's death is a continuation of a disturbing trend: 887 American workers were killed in fatal falls in 2017, the highest number ever recorded. Unfortunately, this trend held steady in New York, where 34 construction workers were killed in fatal falls, a 17% increase from the year before.

This type of accident is inexcusable because this particular fatal risk is not a novel one. There is no reason for any person or company who is responsible for construction site safety at a project not to take every precaution to prevent the workers at the job. Yet it continues to happen, and far too often.

Some revealing numbers include: over the past 10 years, 78 construction workers in New York City have been killed in fatal falls, while 187 across New York State were killed in the same time frame. In both cases, fatal falls are responsible for nearly 50% of all construction worker fatalities. The figures are staggering! Imagine the outcry if another profession was confronting these grim statistics? For some reason, in certain circles, the death of construction workers does not warrant the same type of attention.

Despite these well-known trends, fall protection violations are routinely the most common citation given out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In order to crack down on this common worker safety violation, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH) recommends "additional consequences for employers who violate [the fall protection] standard."

New York Labor Law 240(1), also known as the Scaffold Law, is meant to do just that. The law mandates that employers must protect their workers from gravity-related hazards such as falls and falling objects. As a result, the law is frequently cited in lawsuits for workers who have been injured or killed in falling accidents.

According to OSHA's Fall Prevention Training Guide, the best way to protect workers from falling accidents is to eliminate fall hazards entirely. One way to prevent falls from unguarded edges is to construct guardrails of sufficient height. If this is not possible, a fall protection system such as a safety net or fall arrest device is the next best option.

A Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) is meant to catch a worker if they do fall. A proper PFAS consists of:

  • Anchorage from which the worker can be safely tethered to
  • A body harness that fits properly and will distribute the forces generated by a fall evenly throughout the body
  • Connectors so that the worker can be safely tethered to an anchorage point
  • A deceleration device to limit the force a fall can generate

Although it is too early to speculate about how this accident may have occurred, investigators will certainly want to know what fall protection systems were in place at this jobsite. Their investigation should also identify the parties who failed Mendoza and allowed these unsafe working conditions to persist in the first place.

There is nothing that can undo the trauma caused by this unnecessary and preventable tragedy. Hopefully the responsible parties can be identified, however, so that the family and friends of Mendoza can have some measure of justice for his untimely death.

If you or someone you love have been injured or killed in a work fall, call 212-736-5300 for a free legal consultation.