Archive for March, 2016

Man Injured in TriBeCa Crane Collapse Plans To Sue City for $30M

A 73-year-old man who suffered spinal and skull fractures after a 565-foot crane in TriBeCa crashed down on him while he sat in his parked car last month is planning to sue the city for $30 million, claiming the city was negligent and reckless.

Thomas O’Brien filed a notice of claim against the city Friday — the first step in eventually suing the city — saying the city is responsible for the massive Feb. 5 collapse on Worth Street that left one man dead because of its “negligence, recklessness and carelessness” in overseeing the safety of the giant crawler crane.

“[The City] knew perfectly well that there were very high winds in the forecast,” said O’Brien’s lawyer Jonathan Damashek. “They knew this was a potentially dangerous crane and they should have taken down that crane early, and fully closed down the street.”

According to city officials, construction workers were trying to lower the Bay Crane Company crawler crane and secure it as 25 mph winds gusted through the area about 8:24 a.m., when it toppled over, sending its 565-foot-long arm smashing onto Worth Street stretching from West Broadway to Church Street.

tribeca crane collapse

Department of Buildings officials had been at the site the day before the accident,officials said, and approved the work being done at 60 Hudson St. The crane had been extended to replace air conditioners and generators on the roof of the building, the former Western Union headquarters.

In the immediate aftermath of the collapse, Mayor de Blasio issued emergency  crane regulations in the city, calling for cranes to be secured when winds were forecast to consistently exceed 20 mph or when gusts were predicted to exceed 30 mph, while a special task force studied best practices for crane operations.

But less than two months after the change, the task force recommended relaxing the restrictions, allowing for cranes to once again operate at 30 mph winds — the city’s original limit — in what critics reportedly saw as a bow to pressure from construction companies.

The group also recommended that cranes unsafe to operate at 30 mph should not be allowed to be used at all.

In the notice of claim, first reported by the New York Daily News, O’Brien, who lives in Massachusetts, says he suffered spinal cord injuries and skull fractures when the crane crushed his car.

The enormous collapse killed 38-year-old Upper West Side man David Wichs and injured several others.

O’Brien’s lawyer said his client is still being evaluated for brain injuries and he may need surgery for his two spinal fractures.

Damashek said they also plan on suing the crane owner, its operator and the owner of 60 Hudson St.

A spokesman for the city law department said the city is reviewing the claim.

A DOB spokesman told DNAinfo New York in a statement that “the cause of the crane collapse on Worth Street remains under active investigation.”

The spokesman added that even though the city has “the most robust crane and construction regulations and inspection requirements in the country,” a task force investigating the accidents is slated to “propose additional best practices and regulations where necessary.”

 

Source

Connecticut steel foundry fined more than $100K

Connecticut steel foundry fined more than $100K for exposing workers to multiple hazards and failing to provide protective equipment

Employees at Connecticut steel foundry exposed to electrical, chemical,
mechanical and fire hazards and lack of protective equipment
$104K in OSHA penalties proposed for PCC Structural-Groton

HARTFORD, Conn. – Employees at PCC Structurals-Groton faced the risk of chemical burns, fire, lacerations, amputations, electric shock and other injuries, inspections by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration have found.

“Our inspections identified a disturbing cross-section of hazards that could result in eye, face or body injuries, burns, or hearing loss for employees at the Groton location, as well as potential fires or explosions. It’s imperative for the health and well-being of its employees that PCC Structurals takes comprehensive, effective and ongoing corrective action to eliminate these hazards,” said Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford.

Located at 839 Poquonnock Road, the Groton facility is a steel-investment casting foundry that casts components for aerospace, energy, and commercial applications. Among the hazards identified during OSHA’s inspections:

  • Lack of hand, face and body protection for employees working on or near electrical equipment.
  • Exposed live electrical parts; misused electrical equipment and power cords; inadequate working space around electrical panelboards; and an ungrounded extension cord.
  • Unguarded points of operation of hydraulic presses.
  • Failure to inspect energy control procedures periodically to prevent the unintended startup of machinery during maintenance and cleaning.
  • No program to inspect chain alloy slings used to lift materials and equipment.
  • Lack of emergency eyewashes where employees worked with corrosive chemicals.
  • Inadequate safety glasses for employees working with chemicals.
  • Inadequately labeled containers of hazardous chemicals.
  • Flammable liquids not stored in closed containers; improper disposal of combustible waste.
  • Unsecured compressed gas cylinders.
  • Incompatible chemicals stored together in a cabinet.
  • Employees exposed to high noise levels not provided with a choice of hearing protection.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA cited the company for 20 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards on Feb. 19, 2016, with proposed penalties of $90,000. OSHA earlier cited the facility on Jan. 5 for two serious violations concerning inadequate fall protection equipment and an unprotected table saw. Fines of $14,000 were proposed for those violations.

The citations can be viewed here*, here* and here*.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Source

Labor Department Sues Employer for Firing Whistleblower

The Department of Labor is suing a company that allegedly fired a worker for reporting health and safety concerns.

 

whistle blower

The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit in federal court against a Niagara Falls-based contractor that allegedly fired an employee who reported health and safety concerns.

The suit, which was filed Feb. 19 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, alleges that Regional Environmental Demolition Inc. and its officials – Charles Van Epps and Enrico Liberale – fired a laborer who had expressed concerns about safety after OSHA contacted the employer about an anonymous complaint.

The demolition and asbestos abatement laborer had been working on an asbestos abatement project in Buffalo and noticed “soft spots” – deteriorated sections of floor. During the time he worked on the project (from April to June 2014), he reported on multiple occasions his concerns about the safety hazard to officials at the company.

The worker then was fired in June 2014 after OSHA contacted the company in response to an anonymous complaint it had received. The worker subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint to OSHA, which found merit in the claim.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives us the authority to sue employers who retaliate against employees in safety and health matters. We will do so when the case warrants, as it does here,” said Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional solicitor of labor in New York.

In its lawsuit, the Department of Labor is looking for payment of lost wages and compensatory damages, interest, front pay, emotional and financial distress damages and punitive damages to the worker; and for the matter to be erased from his personnel record.

“Regional Environmental Demolition had no reason and no right to fire this worker for repeatedly reporting a safety hazard that could have seriously harmed him and his fellow workers. Firing or retaliating against workers who raise safety concerns is intimidation, plain and simple. If employees fear losing their jobs, hazards can go unreported and injuries can result,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

The lawsuit also calls for the court to make Regional Environmental Demolition post a notice to employees announcing that they will not discriminate against workers who raise health and safety concerns.  

Connecticut Contractor Misclassified Employees as Independent Contractors

OSHA administrative law judge rules that Connecticut contractor misclassified employees as independent contractors

Date of action: Feb. 1, 2016

Type of action: Decision and Order

Names of defendant: David Dzenutis dba Royal Construction Company, a roofing contractor in Canton, Connecticut.

Background: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Royal Construction for seven violations of workplace safety standards at a Farmington work site. A total of $20,240 in fines was proposed. Royal Construction filed a notice of contest with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in August 2014 and litigation commenced.

Royal Construction claimed that the workers at the job site were not employees under the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act but instead independent contractors who worked under their own supervision, supplied their own tools and made their own hours.

Decision: After review, Administrative Law Judge Keith E. Bell found that the Labor Department established the following:

  • Royal Construction had employees at the job site, and provided materials, tools, trailer and equipment needed for the project.
  • Dzenutis had control over the workers and work site safety.
  • Royal Construction determined when and for how long the individuals worked; the work was done as part of the regular business of Royal Construction.
  • The company paid hourly wages to the individuals working at the site.

Judge Bell also upheld the citations and proposed penalties. The full court decision and order can be read here*.

Quote: “Employers cannot evade their responsibility by claiming that workers on a job site are independent contractors when the facts show otherwise. We will not hesitate to pursue appropriate legal action to ensure that workers are provided with the safeguards to which they are entitled,” said Michael Felsen, the regional solicitor of labor for New England.

“Judge Bell’s decision and order upholds a basic tenet of the OSH Act, the employer/employee relationship. Employers have a fundamental responsibility to their employees, to provide them with a safe and healthful workplace,’ said Kim Stille, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England.

The original inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Hartford Area Office. The case was litigated for OSHA by attorney Mark Pedulla of the regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston.