On Monday, June 15, 2020, three construction workers were injured on the job when the work platform they were standing on in an elevator shaft gave way, causing them to fall down the shaft from the fourth floor to the basement.
The incident occurred around 8:00 a.m. at 170 Tillary Street, a residential building in downtown Brooklyn. The workers were taken to Methodist Hospital, and are reported to have non-life threatening injuries.
The New York Department of Buildings (DOB) is investigating the incident. We hope the three workers make a full and speedy recovery.
Although elevators are typically safe for passengers, construction workers face a higher risk of accidents, since they have to work on elevators that are not fully functional and are sometimes broken into parts with open shafts. According to a 2018 report by the Center for Construction Research and Training, the majority of elevator-related fatalities in construction were caused by falls to a lower level. Additionally, between the years of 2011 and 2016, the construction industry had the highest amount of elevator-related injuries in the United States among all major industries: 2,140 total. Clearly, construction workers are at a higher risk of death or injury when working on elevators.
OSHA has put forth certain requirements to increase safety and prevent elevator-related injuries and fatalities. In addition, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program has made recommendations with the same goal in mind. For example, OSHA requires that all employers provide fall protection systems, ensure that walking/working surfaces have enough structural integrity to support workers, and provide safety training to any employee that may be exposed to fall hazards. Similarly, FACE recommends that all employees be provided with personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) and that safety training is given to all employees.
The Center for Construction Research and Training study states, “Given that the majority of elevator-related fatalities are caused by falls to a lower level, employers should ensure that workers who perform tasks involving elevators or escalators are protected from falls when the potential for falls exist.” Although we don’t know exactly what caused the elevator shaft accident in Brooklyn, it is clear that falls are an incredibly common cause of elevator accidents, and at the very least, employers and construction managers need to ensure they are in compliance with OSHA requirements.
In January 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Elevator Safety Act into law. This requires anyone who is engaged in the design, construction, operation, inspection, maintenance, and repair of elevators to be licensed by New York State. In order to be licensed, an individual will have to go through training and meet certain necessary qualifications. The Act also creates the New York State Elevator Safety and Standards Advisory Board, which will establish recommendations for elevator inspections and licensing requirements. It is the hope that the Elevator Safety Act will increase the safety of both the workers who maintain and repair elevators, and the passengers who ride in them.
The elevator accident attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have an excellent track record of getting results in elevator accident cases, such as this $7 million settlement in which our client sustained severe crush injuries after falling 30 feet down an elevator shaft, and a $3 million settlement for an elevator technician who required multiple surgeries after falling through a faulty escape hatch. If you or someone you know has been injured in an elevator accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, and we can help. Call us at 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form to speak to an experienced attorney today.