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New York Attorneys for Demolition Accidents

demolition on a construction site

Every year, construction workers performing demolition projects in New York City suffer serious injuries or even fatalities while taking down different structures. And they are not the only ones at risk. Demolition often involves the use of controlled explosives, and this can put pedestrians in danger either through falling objects or harder-to-detect hazards such as asbestos and other toxins. Other construction workers also need to be accounted for and protected during demolition work. For instance, construction workers may be at risk working on the 8th floor of a building while demolition work is taking place on another level of that building.

If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a demolition accident, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to provide the legal advice and representation you deserve. Our attorneys are experienced in ligating all types of construction accidents, particularly those involving demolition and New York Labor Laws.

At Block O’Toole & Murphy, our team has secured millions of dollars for victims of demolition accidents such as:

  • $7,300,000 settlement for a Brooklyn worker who had his right arm amputated after a 10,000 pound steel beam fell on him during a steel demolition accident
  • $3,700,000 settlement for an asbestos worker who fell from a scaffold while removing asbestos from a Manhattan structure prior to demolition
  • $3,200,000 settlement for a worker who was injured when the staircase collapsed in an old Brooklyn building
  • $2,900,000 settlement for a worker who fractured his heel while he was removing an air conditioner from a demolition site in Manhattan
  • $2,600,000 settlement for a union worker hurt during the demolition phase of a project when the building collapsed prematurely

Since 2012, no law firm has achieved more results exceeding $1,000,000 in New York than Block O’Toole & Murphy. To receive a free legal consultation, contact us online or call us at 212-736-5300. We’ll help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

Safety Issues in Demolition

A proper and carefully planned demolition can be accomplished safely. The process of demolishing a building, or structure creates instability with each step. The removal of the roof, the floors, the walls and the beams make the structure unstable.

A Safe Demolition Plan Should Be in Place

Preparation and communication during demolition work are essential.  A demolition plan should be prepared by an engineer, or an architect, and filed with the appropriate municipal agency, such as the Department of buildings in the city of New York. Thereafter, the plan should be carefully followed by the owner and your general contractor involved in the demolition.  All of the different workers at a construction site should be carefully educated on the demolition plan.

The demolition plan should call for a staged demolition with shoring and bracing along the way to prevent collapse. Often, it is the laborer who is subjected to unsafe work conditions, and a demolition plan that is not in existence or is not being properly followed.  Demolition accidents are avoidable with the proper planning. The devastation to the injured worker, and the injured worker’s family can be catastrophic. 

Falling Debris in Demolitions

One of the most common methods of demolition is to place explosives inside a structure to create a controlled implosion to bring the structure down. This can create significant amounts of falling debris such as concrete, rebar, wood, pipe and stone, which can scatter in unpredictable directions and potentially injure both workers and passersby.  Protections need to be enacted so that falling debris does not result in a serious accident.

Premature Collapses

In addition to dangers from falling debris, the original design of the structure may have been altered either during initial construction or at some time after, leaving demolition workers without the proper knowledge of how to perform a safe demolition. This can cause entire walls, staircases or floors to collapse before they’re expected to. Premature collapses can be especially dangerous to pedestrians and other passersby when the structure being demolished is public, such as a bridge, roadway, sidewalk or fence.

Material Reclamation

An additional risk exists if a company attempts to recycle materials from a building that’s set to be demolished. To do this, it’s not uncommon to cut large holes in walls to allow for materials to be easily moved in and out. This necessitates that the workers be in close contact with the building during demolition, rather than being able to use explosives or other machinery from a safe distance.

Older Buildings Are Particularly Dangerous

Oftentimes, the buildings and other structures being demolished are very old. While it’s impossible to predict how any building is going to react in a demolition, there are some added dangers of working on older buildings:

Undocumented Modifications

Modifications made to the structure of a building, whether large or small, are supposed to be rigorously documented, yet this doesn’t always happen. The older a building is, the likelier it is that undocumented changes have been made to the buildings’ structure. The structure of a building determines where explosives should be placed, so if demolition workers aren’t made aware of all structural changes, the results can be potentially catastrophic.

Materials Used

It is common for older buildings to be made mostly with brick and wood, a style known as unreinforced masonry. While buildings made in this style are generally reliable at bearing heavy loads, the mortar which holds the bricks together is liable to weaken if not properly maintained. It is also more common to see such toxins as lead and asbestos used in older buildings, which poses a major risk to both construction workers and pedestrians if not properly disposed of.

Gas and Coal Dust Buildup

While it is standard practice to remove these fuel sources from a building before a demolishment, particularly if explosives will be involved, they may still be present. This can happen if pipes have been leaking and built up in the structure itself; in this case, even supply pipes which have been disconnected and capped may still pose a risk to prematurely explode at the presence of a spark or other source of ignition.

Filing a Lawsuit After a Demolition Work Injury

OSHA dictates that construction workers must be provided with certain Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If you were injured in a demolition accident but not provided with PPE, you may have a case to make. This protective gear includes but is not limited to:

  • Face and eye protection (safety goggles, face protectors, etc.)
  • Foot protection (safety-toed, slip and puncture resistant boots, etc.)
  • Hand protection
  • Head protection (hardhats, frequently inspected for dents or cracks)
  • Hearing protection

In New York, Labor Law section 240 requires all owners and contractors involved in the demolition of a building or structure to provide safety devices, such as scaffolding, braces, hoists, and stays to be used to give proper protection to workers on the job. 

Additionally, New York Codes, Rules and Regulations contain The Industrial Code Part 23, which provides protection to workers involved in demolition work.

In addition, New York Labor Laws 200, 240 and 241 give basic safety provisions that demolition sites must meet to be considered safe for laborers. Certain violations that can cause injuries during demolition include but are not limited to:

  • Falls from scaffolds, ladders or other high places
  • Fire or radiation hazards
  • Falling objects, debris or machinery
  • Improper overhead protection
  • Inadequate bracing and shoring tools
  • Blocked or otherwise insufficient exits
  • Premature or misplaced explosions
  • Insufficient asbestos surveys or removals

An inspector is supposed to submit a written notice if he finds unsafe conditions. The work site then has 10 days to correct this violation before work is allowed to resume. Failure to respond to notices or lack of any inspection being performed at all leading to an injury may mean you have a case to make.

There are additional negligence laws which may hold a contractor or employer liable in the case of dangerous conditions that a) cause a worker’s injury and b) the contractor, employer or other third-party should have known about and corrected.

These negligence laws highlight the importance of proper training and safety measures on the part of the contractor or employer. If you were not provided with adequate training or safety equipment, you may have a case.

Call to Receive a Free Consultation

Those who are responsible for job site safety need to be held accountable for the ways they have irreparably changed your life. Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to help. If you or someone you love were injured in a demolition accident, contact us online or call the demolition injury attorneys at 212-736-5300 for a free case review. Serving the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island and all New York State.

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