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Construction Worker Killed in Fall at Manhattan West Development

June 12, 2017
By Silver Krieger

New York, NY – Yet another failure by developers to maintain safety standards has led to the tragic death of a construction worker in New York City. Roger Vail, 62, was killed on Monday night, June 5th, while working as a surveyor on a building at development site Manhattan West, at 400 West 33rd Street. Part of the Hudson Yards complex, it is being constructed by Brookfield Properties.

Vail was conducting a survey on the 16th floor, and stepped onto a platform that collapsed under him, causing him to fall 10 stories to a 6th floor landing. Vail was, ironically, working to raise a safety system to suspend falls. Vail was employed by 50 States Engineering, which is contracted by Tishman Construction for the building. After the accident, Tishman was cited by the New York Department of Buildings for failing to properly safeguard the work area, and a full work stoppage was ordered.  The citation says, “Failure to safeguard all persons and property. Worker was allowed in an area which presented a fall hazard without being provided a fall arrest system (lifeline and harness) resulting in death.”

Howard Raphaelson, of Raphaelson Levine, a personal injury firm in New York which has handled many such cases in the past, says that despite strong New York laws, the people responsible for worker safety often fail to take notice. “We’ve had a bunch of cases involving Brookfield Properties,” he says, “partial dismemberment, head injury, severe spinal injury, a fractured shoulder, arm, and hand.” He adds, “Under the law it’s not just who is supervising or in charge or directing or controlling work done at the time. Very simply, the safety of any construction worker who is subject to an elevated danger – falling from an elevated height, or falling objects from above – is entitled to the protection of Labor Law 240, the Ladder and Scaffold Law, which holds that all general contractors and all owners of property, regardless of if they’re on site or involved in the work, has a ‘non-delegable duty’ to protect the worker. They can’t shift the responsibility to someone else…They have to make sure they are protected against injury, death or dismemberment, and the [resulting] destruction of their lives and their family’s lives.”

Raphaelson also adds that construction workers’ jobs are one of three – the other being police officer and firefighter – of the most dangerous jobs. “We keep a close eye on the pulse of the construction industry in New York,” he says. “This [case involving Vail] is the type of case we’ve lobbied about in Albany when advocating for stronger laws. People don’t realize how much danger the construction worker is in.”

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