A 33-year old construction worker was hospitalized after the walls of a trench in which he was standing collapsed in upon him. The unnamed individual suffered significant injuries (which the FDNY first responders said were “serious”) and was taken to Kings County Hospital
The construction accident occurred at a jobsite in Brooklyn (behind a building located at 2407 E. 24th Street). A New York City Buildings Department spokesperson said that documentation showed a construction company was hired to renovate the first-floor commercial space of the building and add on an addition at the back.
The trench in which the man was trapped was only three feet wide and varied in depth between 8 and 10 feet but he was unable to pull himself out after the trench collapse. When FDNY officials arrived, the man was partially buried alive, trapped up to his chest, and was and screaming for help. Neighbors report hearing the man call out in Spanish and say that the fear in his voice was unmistakable. The man reportedly said he was having trouble breathing.
There were, apparently, no safety devices in place to keep the walls of the trench from collapsing while workers were inside. While trench collapse construction accidents are rare, they are very dangerous and often result in worker fatalities. OSHA statistics show that since the end of 2010, 13 constructions workers have been killed in trench related accidents (mostly collapses such as the one in Brooklyn last week) while 11 more have been seriously injured. Many of these fatal or near fatal accidents were caused by unsafe working conditions and usually resulted from lack of proper bracing equipment such as trench boxes.
OSHA regulations mandate that any trench 5 feet deep or deeper must have some sort of protective system installed. The system must be designed by a registered engineer and created to match very tight specifications. OSHA also requires that all trenches be inspected daily and that any “predictable hazards” be addressed before work can continue.
While the details of this latest trench collapse have yet to come to light, if the lack of oversight and improper safety precautions led to the accident, under the New York Labor Law, the property owner and general contractor in charge of the commercial renovation could be held financially responsible for the worker’s injuries and be made to pay compensation for unpaid medical expenses, future lost wages, and more.
If you or a loved one has been involved in any kind of construction site accident, call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation to learn your rights at (800) 734-9338 or (212) 385-1122.