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NYC pulls riggers' licenses after deadly scaffolding collapse

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) says two riggers ignored safety rules before a construction accident in June that killed one worker and is suspending their licenses as it investigates.

Carlos Olmedo Lala was on a section of pipe scaffolding outside a Manhattan building on June 22, installing new façade bricks and repairing existing ones. The scaffolding reached about 50 feet high, according to a report from the New York Daily News.

Lala, 44 years old, was about two stories up when he fell off the scaffolding and to the ground. He died from his injuries.

A long list of violations

In September, the DOB suspended the rigging licenses of Wayne Bellet (Bellet Construction) and Mohammad Bhutta (Zain Contracting) in connection with the incident. The agency alleges:

  • Neither company obtained the necessary permits;
  • The scaffolding did not have proper guard rails;
  • Planks on the scaffolding were inadequate to support the workers;
  • The workers did not get required safety training;
  • The site was not properly supervised;
  • No design drawings of the site existed;
  • No records or logs of the scaffolding's installation were kept.

In total, DOB issued 15 aggravated violations to Bellet and Bhutta, and argues they were negligent in the lead-up to Lala's death.

Falls on construction sites

Falls are a serious danger to construction workers, and unfortunately are quite prevalent. According to a report from a worker safety advocacy group, falls are the top cause of construction worker fatalities in New York. Over the past decade 187 workers have died as a result of a fall - accounting for half of all fatalities in the construction industry during that time.

Workers are generally powerless to compel their employers to improve safety conditions. However, owners and General Contractors have the necessary clout to insist that proper safety protection is provided; and so, New York's "Scaffold Law" imposes a duty on them to make sure that proper safety procedures are followed. When owners and general contractors allow unsafe conditions on their job sites, they may be liable for money damages.n these instances, an experienced New York construction injury attorney can help injured workers and their family to obtain the financial remuneration that may be available under the law.

It's unfortunate, however, that some of the city's valued construction workers continue to pay the price for others' negligent actions.

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