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MADISON AVENUE "CEILING COLLAPSE" RAISES QUESTIONS OF SAFETY DURING DEMOLITION WORK

On July 24, 2015, many local news outlets reported that a "ceiling collapse" at a building under construction had injured two persons. As details trickled out, it became clear that the general public was never in danger, and although two construction workers were treated at an area hospital, their injuries were minor and they were released the same day. A spokesman for the construction manager, Tishman Construction, later asserted that there had been no "ceiling collapse" in the commonly understood sense of that phrase. The workers were part of a demolition team who brought the ceiling down intentionally.

Still, the incident may raise questions for average New Yorkers about the general safety of demolition work in the City. When most people think of demolition, they envision a dramatic spectacle like an implosion or a wrecking ball hammering away at a teetering structure. But, demolition is an everyday activity in the construction industry. This work is highly regulated and highly controlled.

Three New York agencies oversee and regulate demolition:

  • Department of Buildings - Issues permits, inspects sites and monitors protocols
  • Fire Department of New York - Issues permits for hazardous materials and inspects sites to check compliance with fire safety regulations
  • Department of Environmental Protection - Since demolition of older buildings involves a risk of releasing asbestos, DEP oversees abatement protocols

All of this oversight is geared toward reducing risks to workers and the public. Unfortunately, no amount of regulation can prevent accidents without a commitment from the parties being regulated.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the building at 317 Madison Ave. is one many being demolished to make way for a new office complex. A spokesman SL Green Realty Corp., Anthony Malandro declined to comment on the accident, but is on record boasting that the new structure will be "a spectacular trophy asset with design inspiration from around the world." We hope that the company's commitment to safety proves equal to its desire to inspire architectural awe.

When accidents occur, everyone involved must participate in a thorough investigation to determine cause, and then make the necessary adjustments to reduce risks for the future. Corrections often involve retraining for workers and supervisors, which can be costly to construction contractors. However, those costs are insignificant when compared to the crushing liability that attaches when workers or bystanders are seriously injured. A minor accident properly addressed today can prevent a major accident tomorrow. The worst thing a company or a worker can do is to become complacent after an accident happens.

If you've been injured in a construction accident, concerned attorneys at Rubin & Licatesi, P.C. are ready to help. For a free consultation, call us at 516-227-2662 or contact our Brooklyn office online.

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