A construction worker named Nelson Salinas was tragically killed by falling debris as he worked from a suspended scaffold at a building on East 50th Street in Manhattan on April 8, 2019.
Salinas was working to repair the masonry on the exterior of the building when he was struck in the head by a piece of molding, according to the New York Times.
In order to save the worker, firefighters ascended the building, broke a window, and pulled the unconscious worker inside. The 51-year-old was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
A second worker who was also at the scaffold at the time was taken to the hospital for observation, but was not injured in the accident, according to a spokesperson for the FDNY.
Disturbingly, this is not the first time the construction company responsible for the jobsite, VLAD Restoration, has attracted negative attention for the way they run their business.
In 2018, a lawsuit was settled between the company, which is owned by Vlad Tomczak, and six demolition workers who were seeking compensation for unpaid overtime wages of more than $290,000. The case settled for $129,000.
While an in-depth investigation into this accident is still required to understand why it happened, the lawsuit is a potentially ominous sign. In the latest Deadly Skyline report, one key finding was the “connection between fatalities, wage theft, and other crimes” in studied cases of on-the-job construction worker deaths.
An FDNY inspection of the building is pending, citing a “partial façade collapse” and noting that the working conditions were unsafe. The Department of Buildings (DOB) will also investigate “the cause of the accident and make a determination of any liability,” according to Timothy E. Hogan, deputy commissioner of enforcement for the DOB.
In a sad coincidence, this building was the site of another devastating construction accident in 2008, when a crane collapsed due to a damaged sling, killing six construction workers and one pedestrian.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Nelson Salinas, and to all the other families who have suffered due to the practices of negligent construction companies.
Unfortunately, serious injuries and fatalities caused by falling objects are too common. In 2017, the most recent data available, there were 237 workers killed by falling objects across American workplaces, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are really only a few ways to lessen the damage falling object accidents cause – they unquestionably pose a grave danger – and the best option is to prevent them entirely.
How can falling object accidents be prevented?
First, anchoring tools to a fixed point so that they can’t be dropped will go a long way in trying to prevent falling object accidents. Another best practice is to make ample use of bags and buckets as containers to transport tools and equipment with. The use of hardhats and other safety devices can also be critical to try and contain the damages in a falling object case.
When falling object hazards are not properly accounted for, and workers are injured or killed as a result, it may constitute a violation of OSHA regulation 1910.28, which mandates the broad need for “employers to provide protection for each employee exposed to fall and falling object hazards.”
Investigators will likely want to know what protocol existed for securing tools and materials from heights on this job site, if there was such a protocol in place. If there were rules, were they followed? They will also likely try to determine how messy the workspace may have been when the accident occurred, and if this tragedy could have been avoided simply by clearing debris from the floor.
No amount of investigation or compensation will be able to undo this tragic loss of life. A good investigation should identify the responsible parties, however, and hopefully bring about some form of justice for this senseless tragedy. And hopefully those parties are made to pay for the irreversible hurt and trauma that they’ve caused.
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