Early on the morning of July 12, 2023, firefighters were called to 550 Madison Avenue after a gas tank exploded on the 34th floor of the landmark building, seriously injuring two construction workers. The two workers were brought to local hospitals and are reportedly in serious, but stable, condition.
According to news reports, at around 6:30 a.m., the two workers were using a Sawzall cutting tool to cut a padlock on a gang box containing fuel tanks used for welding and cutting tools. Sparks from the blade of the cutting tool ignited flammable gas that was leaking from an acetylene tank, causing the gas tank to explode.
The FDNY’s hazmat team reported to the scene and were thankfully able to secure the acetylene tank without further incident. One injured worker was transported to Weill Cornell Medical Center, the other to Bellevue Hospital. A third worker was reportedly injured, but declined medical treatment. We hope the victims involved in this accident are able to recover quickly and completely.
A preliminary inspection from the Department of Buildings (DOB) revealed that the box in which the gas tank was stored was not properly secured. Officials concluded the site’s contractor failed to comply with FDNY regulations. DOB inspectors issued violations as well as a partial stop work order on all hot work operation on site, meaning any operation that produces a flame or spark, such as riveting or welding. They also issued a separate stop work order for the use of a freight elevator that was found to have an expired permit.
The building where this incident occurred was originally built in 1984 and has served as the headquarters for companies including AT&T and Sony. In 2018, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated it a city landmark.
Explosions on construction sites are very dangerous and can potentially result in serious injury to workers and nearby pedestrians, as well as extensive property damage. Acetylene gas, the type of gas involved in this incident, is extremely flammable and can form an explosive atmosphere when exposed to oxygen. Because of this, it is a serious potential hazard on job sites and should be handled with extreme caution.
Employers should understand the extreme dangers associated with pressurized gas tanks and anticipate all possible forms of fire that may come near them, such as the sparks that came from the Sawzall blade in this instance. General contractors and property owners have a legal duty to provide a safe work environment for their employees. They are responsible for ensuring their work site adheres to all local, state, and federal safety regulations relevant to the work being done under their supervision. This responsibility includes making sure all employees are trained to do the work they are assigned and are aware of all safety protocols.
The construction accident lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have extensive experience fighting on behalf of injured construction workers. Our firm’s results include the following:
- $110,174,972 verdict for a cyclist who was paralyzed when he was struck by a railroad tie that fell from a construction site
- $53,500,000 verdict for a worker who was paralyzed when he fell on a construction site in Brooklyn