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Fatal Construction Accidents

Despite the many New York worker safety laws and regulations that are in place to protect workers, such as the Scaffold Law, construction workers in New York continue to die in on-the-job accidents in alarmingly high numbers. In New York City alone, there have been more than twenty workplace fatalities on construction sites every year since 2013, according to the 2019 construction fatality report Deadly Skyline, released annually by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH). Meanwhile, in New York State, the construction fatality rate has increased 39% in the last five years.

Imagine for just a second if another profession, like New York City police officers or firefighters, suffered the same number of work-related fatalities. Would it be treated with the same apathy that construction fatalities receive?

We were reminded how easily a fatal construction accident can happen in April 2019, when three NYC construction workers were killed in three separate fatal work accidents over just one week. Heavy machinery, elevated heights and falling objects are just a few of the hazards that threaten the lives of construction workers in New York. Yet these hazards continue to cause fatal accidents, despite how much safety information and training is freely available to employers.

Sadly, when a fatal construction accident does occur, the survivors may be left with financial problems on top of their profound grief. A wrongful death lawsuit may allow family members to be compensated for medical bills, funeral costs, and pain and suffering resulting from the fatal accident.

The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy offer free legal consultations to survivors who lost loved ones to tragic construction accidents. Our results include $15 million and $10.5 million settlements for families of workers killed on the job. Dial 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form to discuss your case with a wrongful death attorney experienced in litigating fatal construction accident lawsuits.

The Most Common Fatal Construction Hazards: The Fatal Four

The hazards of construction work are well documented. Every year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases updated ‘Fatal Four’ data about the four most common causes of on-the-job construction deaths across the country. In 2017, the latest data available as of 2019, the leading causes of fatal construction accidents were:

  • Falls (381 deaths, 39.2% of construction workers killed that year)
  • Struck by Object (80 deaths, 8.2% of total)
  • Electrocutions (71 deaths, 7.3% of total)
  • Caught-in/between (50 deaths, 5.1% of total)

Construction Site Falls

Falls are far and away the leading cause of death on construction sites across the country. This is true every single year, and yet fatal falls in the US reached an all-time-high in 2017. But rather than treat the danger of fall accidents as the life-threatening hazard it is, too many employers fail to make fall protection education, training and equipment a priority. Of the three NYC construction workers killed during that bloody week in April 2019, Erik Mendoza died in a fall from the roof of a 13-story building. Mr. Mendoza was a 23-year-old masonry laborer working on a project in Brooklyn Heights. He was doing “pointing” work – replacing old water damaged bricks that were adjacent to the building’s water tower.

No construction worker should ever be at risk of a 13-story fatal fall from a roof. If and when work is being done close to the edge of a roof, workers must be provided with safety harnesses and reliable tie-off points for the harnesses. In recent years, manufacturers have developed retractable “yo-yo” lines for safety harnesses. These allow workers to cover a greater area of the work zone without having to unhook and reattach at another tie-off point.

When work is being done near the edge of a roof, there should also be temporary safety barricades in place. These can take the form of well-constructed sturdy wooden railing systems with orange construction netting to provide an additional visual cue. The construction industry also uses steel cable systems that can be installed around the entire perimeter of a rooftop. These cables are load tested and proven to withstand horizontal forces well in excess of the weight of a worker’s body.

Struck-by-object Accidents

Struck-by-object accidents, which include falling objects, are another persistent threat that construction workers face. Working with elevated heights in the construction industry is so common that sometimes employers disregard the threat that a falling object poses. Sadly, we also saw this during that bloody week in April, when Nelson Salinas was killed by a falling piece of molding, and five days later Gregory Echevarria was killed by a falling crane counterweight.

Three well-known safety measures to protect against fatal falling object construction accidents are netting, spotters and established safe zones.

On job sites where falling debris is a known hazard, angled netting is installed below the area of debris creating work. The netting is ordinarily attached to wooden or metal posts placed at a 45 degree angle from the structure.

The use of spotters can be very effective in preventing falling object accidents as well. Spotters should be located at the higher level from which the debris or demolished material is being dropped and also at the ground level below to ensure that no worker accidentally enters the “drop zone”.

The drop zone or safe zone is a designated perimeter at ground level where demolished material is, by design, falling into. This perimeter needs to be clearly defined and physically barricaded to avoid potentially catastrophic and fatal injury to unsuspecting workers at ground level.

The threat posed by elevated heights, whether a worker falls, or an object does, is too often overlooked on construction sites in New York City. But they are not the only hazards employers need to train their workers to work safely with.


Even if workers aren’t involved in installing power lines, circuits or light fixtures, electrocution accidents can happen to anybody. Roofers and crane operators, for example, could suffer a fatal accident if they contact a nearby overhead power line. All workers must be trained to avoid electrocution accidents, whether they are electrical workers or not.

There are a number of safety measures which can and should be employed on construction sites to protect against potentially fatal electrical shock injuries. One method is “powering down” when feasible. If during electrical installations, there are “live” components that are exposed, no other work should be performed in close proximity to the installation. If other work has to be performed close to an electrical installation, the components should be powered off so that they are not “live” until the other trades are clear of the area.

When temporary lighting is used on construction sites, the wiring for the lights must be frequently checked to ensure against fraying and other damage. Exposed wiring can result in electrical charges being transmitted to metallic structures adjacent to the wiring.

Caught-in/Between Accidents

Caught-in/between accidents, when a worker is crushed between two objects, is a big risk when working with heavy machinery. Trench collapses also fall under this umbrella. In unfinished houses, or in buildings that are being demolished, wall and roof collapses can also pose a potentially fatal hazard to construction workers.

Although every jobsite presents its own unique hazards, there are broad patterns to how fatal construction accidents occur. Employers who make safety a priority can create a safe working environment for their employees, regardless of the task being performed. But far too often, employers put profit over safety, and workers pay the ultimate price.

Other Types of Fatal Construction Accidents

The Law Firm of Block O’Toole & Murphy handles fatal construction injury lawsuits that stem from all types of construction accidents, including but not limited to:

When a worker is killed as a result of an accident at a construction site, their loved ones may be able to pursue legal recourse depending on the cause of the accident. Contractors, construction site owners and equipment manufacturers are a few of the parties that may be found negligent in causing a fatal construction accident in New York.

Although a lawsuit is probably the last thing on your mind if you are grieving the sudden loss of a loved one, an experienced attorney will be able to discuss your case and help you understand if compensation is available to recover financial damages, even if it can never undo your grief.

Fatal Construction Accident Case Results

The New York wrongful death lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have obtained numerous verdicts and settlement on behalf of New York families who have lost loved ones in construction accidents and other tragedies.* Select results include:

  • $15,000,000 settlement for the spouse and children of an HVAC technician who was fatally struck by a chiller unit
  • $10,500,000 settlement in a Staten Island case for the family of a union laborer who was killed by a defective saw
  • $4,475,000 settlement for the children of a 33-year-old ironworker who was killed as a result of a floor collapse at a Manhattan construction site. The settlement funds were placed in a structured annuity for his children, which will pay them around $22,000,000 over their lifetime.
  • $2,250,000 settlement for the spouse of an elevator erector who was killed while riding on top of a hoist at a West Chelsea, Manhattan construction site. OSHA and New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued multiple violations to the work site after the tragic incident.

For a complete list of construction-related results Block O’Toole & Murphy has obtained for our clients, please visit our construction accident verdicts and settlements page.

Contact an Experienced NYC Wrongful Death Lawyer

Often, when a loved one dies in a New York construction accident, the surviving family may have both a wrongful death and a workers’ compensation claim that they can file. Coordinating these claims to maximize the family’s monetary recovery can be complicated. Our wrongful death attorneys, however, have experience handling both types of claims and have developed a successful track record of results.

If you lost a loved one in a New York construction accident, we can determine if a contractor or other party was negligent in causing the accident and coordinate with medical professionals and other specialists to document the damages resulting from your loved one’s passing. Please call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form for a free legal consultation.

Serving all New York State, including Long Island, upstate New York, and NYC boroughs of Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.

*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Wrongful Death

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