N.Y. Construction Accident Law Part 2: Collapses, Fires & Explosions

09/03/2013 // New York, NY, USA // jcreiterlaw // Jonathan C. Reiter // (press release)

The rate of building construction continues to skyrocket in New York, and with it, the less common, yet very tragic incidents of collapses, explosions and fires at construction sites. There are as many factors involved in these types of construction accidents, as there are a variety and severity of injuries and death caused by these types of accidents. Many volatile and highly inflammable chemicals are used at building sites, along with pressurized containers, heat-powered tools such as flame torches, soldering irons and brazing torches, the combination of which in a careless or negligent way, can lead to disaster.

Construction site fires are common, and very dangerous, since they can spread and ignite volatile chemicals, which endanger the lives of not just the workers at the site, but people living and working within at least a one-block circumference of the building site. The injuries sustained in one of these construction accidents are as varied as their causes.

• If there is a blast, workers can suffer concussive type injuries such as hearing loss and head trauma.

• They can also suffer injuries to the eyes.

• A welder suffers injuries due to flashback and blasts; a plumber can sustain burns from a brazing fire.

• Painters can be injured if a pressurized contained explodes.

• A natural gas leak can have far reaching effects if left undetected until the point of explosion.

If a construction site has been constructed with defective materials, or without adherence to the safety rules of the N.Y. Industrial Code, the building under construction can collapse, either partially or completely, leading to serious injuries and death. The injuries from a building collapse include:

• fractures

• loss of limb

• spinal injuries

• paralysis

• many other types of injuries

A total building collapse is usually felt for many blocks surrounding the collapse, necessitating the evacuation of nearby homes and structures.

Jonathan C. Reiter, a construction accident attorney with offices located in the Empire State Building, explained the importance of the New York Labor Law in protecting workers from these types of accidents, as follows:

“Labor Law section 241(6) holds the owner and general contractor liable for non-compliance with the safety rules promulgated under the N.Y. Industrial Code, which applies to the disastrous event of a building explosion, fire and collapse. The safety rules must be strictly adhered to, in order to prevent such a tragedy.

Often, profit is placed over the safety of not only the workers but of people who live or work in the vicinity of these accidents, and just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A burn injury is among the most common type of injuries caused by these types of accidents. Burn injuries are often severe, and require extensive hospital and medical treatment, multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation treatment as well. If the accident was caused by the failure to comply with the safety regulations, liability will lie with the owner and the general contractor.”

Mr. Reiter explained the various causes of explosions at construction sites, stating: “There can be gas leaks, chemical leaks, electrical sparks and malfunctions, welding flames, combustible dust, and lack of training of the handlers of these chemicals. Something as simple as passer-by lighting up a cigarette can ignite this type of disaster. ‘No smoking’ signage is required at every building site in New York, and must be strictly adhered to in order to minimize the risks to the workers and the public. If the safety regulations are not strictly followed, a disaster can ensue, and many people can be injured and/or killed. The Labor Law holds the owner and the general contractor liable for such a tragedy.”

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