Worker Who Fell from Roof Lacked Fall Protection

A contractor who had previously been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to protect his employees from falls has admitted his role in the death of a worker who plunged from a roof during a job in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. According to a news report in the Daily Voice, the owner of the roofing company pleaded guilty before a magistrate judge to “willfully violating OSHA standards” by not providing workers with fall protection during the construction of a residential home.

Failure to Provide Fall Protection

The fatal construction accident occurred in October 2016 when the company’s owner along with four workers began putting a new roof on a two-story, two-family home. The company did not use or provide workers with fall protection equipment such as safety harnesses, lanyards, tie-off ropes, guardrails, safety nets or other means of fall protection. One of the workers fell from a corner of the roof during the installation of an ice and water shield, according to court documents.

The 33-year-old worker was not wearing any fall protection gear when he fell. The U.S. attorney said the company’s owner had the required fall protection equipment in his truck and could have also installed a guardrail system around the perimeter of the roof from a ladder before the roofing project began, but failed to do so.

OSHA previously cited the company during a 2014 inspection for failing to provide fall protection to its employees. The company faces five years of probation and about $305,000 in restitution to the deceased worker’s estate. The plea agreement also states that the company must provide training to all its employees and follow enhanced safety provisions for future construction jobs.

Falls from Roofs

The Center for Construction Research and Training states that fatal falls from roofs accounted for one-third of fall-related construction fatalities from 1992-2009. The findings of this study suggest that workers employed by small establishments, residential construction workers, Hispanic workers and immigrant employees may face disproportionately high risks of roof fatalities.

The study points out that falls account for 76% of fatalities in the roofing industry and workers in the roofing industry are three times more likely to experience fatal work-related injuries than any other construction workers. This study essentially confirmed that roofing and residential construction sectors have a much higher risk of falls from roofs compared with any other sectors of construction. All roofing contractors are required to have a written fall protection program that specifies the type of protection that is provided to workers, the training that is provided as well as how the program is enforced.

Construction workers who are at a higher risk of fatalities include steelworkers, carpenters, masons, laborers, electricians, ironworkers and those employed with roofing contractors or residential construction sites. While Hispanic workers account for only one-fourth of all construction employees, about 35% of fatal falls from roofs occur among Hispanic workers. Also, foreign-born workers are more likely to experience fatal falls from roofs than other workers.

New York’s Scaffolding Law (Section 240 of the New York Labor Code) requires contractors, owners and their agents to be responsible for providing necessary equipment such as scaffolds, ladders, hoists, stays, irons, ropes, blocks braces and other devices to keep workers safe from fall-related accidents. Since this law was enacted in the early part of the 20th century, workers injured in fall-related accidents have had the ability to bring civil actions against the contractor and property owner and property manager, etc. responsible for the safety of the jobsite.

If You Have Been Injured on the Job

Workers who have been injured in a construction accident can seek workers’ compensation benefits from their employer which usually covers medical expenses and a portion of lost income. In addition, workers and their families may be able to file a third-party lawsuit for substantial money damages against a number of parties, and thus have two sources of compensation.

Third-party claims are filed against parties other than the employer or co-employees and may include general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, managing agents, construction companies, etc. In cases where a worker dies from injuries suffered on the job, surviving family members may seek death benefits through workers’ compensation and/or file a wrongful death claim against a third party.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker (an undocumented immigrant) who was injured on the job – one of the highest construction case settlements in New York that year.

Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury and/or medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.

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