When José Quizhi heard of a building collapse in the Bronx on Tuesday, he quickly rushed from his New Jersey home to the scene. The reason: his seven relatives were working construction on the site, and Mr. Quizhi was worried for their safety.
His worries turned out to be well-founded, as a family member was crushed to death while another two were seriously injured. Three others suffered minor injuries, leaving only one brother walking away unscathed.
Another accident on a nonunion construction site
The accident, which occurred at East 208th Street in Norwood, claimed the life of Segundo Huerta, who was carrying construction material when the building collapsed. Firefighters took an hour to pull him from the rubble, at which point he was pronounced dead, according to fire officials in the New York Times.
The tragedy is yet another example of the dangers that construction workers face on a daily basis, in an industry that makes up 19% of all worker fatalities, despite comprising only 4% of the national work force.
The risks are exponentially higher for nonunion construction workers—92% of all construction worker deaths in New York City were nonunion.
A disproportionate number of construction injuries involve nonunion labor. Typically, this is because the companies and general contractors looking to hire nonunion are interested in cutting corners and keeping project costs low, which carries over to a lesser focus on safety. Safety can mean slower, and more expensive projects.
Many workers, like Mr. Quizhi’s relatives, are Latino immigrants, and though they make up 10% of the state’s workforce, they account for 20% of worker fatalities.
Worker safety should be a priority
Jose Huerta, brother of Segundo Huerta, stated that Mr. Huerta had been working in construction for most of the 19 years he had spent in the states, and that he had not complained about the conditions on the site. It is likely that he did not complain because he was happy to be working, even if proper safety protection was not being provided.
Arye, Lustig & Sassower believes that workers shouldn’t have to choose between having a job and having a safe job. It’s up to state and city authorities to enact laws to provide for the protection of the workers and enforce the laws that they’ve enacted.
The experienced construction accident attorneys at Arye, Lustig & Sassower, express their condolences to the family.