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Scaffolding Deaths Prompts Demands For Accountability and Increased Construction Site Safety

January 32, 2023
Worker injured under scaffolding

2022 is the most dangerous and deadliest year for construction workers working at heights. According to preliminary data from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), as of November 2022, 482 construction accidents have occurred in NYC, which resulted in eight deaths and 496 injuries. Six of these deaths happened due to scaffold or sidewalk shed malfunctions.

One of these deaths was Raul Tenelema Puli, a 27-year-old construction worker from Corona, Queens, on November 2nd. Puli was constructing a sidewalk shed when he fell to his death at a construction site in Brooklyn with a troubling history of site safety violations. DOB records state that Puli fell 20 feet while installing a 30-foot beam. The DOB had previously cited Galaxy Developers, the project’s general contractor, six times for safety enforcement violations at the construction site and ordered them to pay up to $11,250 in fines.

In addition, OSHA had previously fined Colgate Scaffolding, the subcontractor that Puli worked for, $5,000 in 2008 and $8,400 in 2003 for failure to follow the general scaffolding requirements. However, both companies have continued operating to this day. The DOB lifted the stop work order on the Galaxy construction site by Nov 29 after the company proposed a plan to address all the safety issues, and a follow-up DOB inspection found that the site is free of hazards.

Carlos’ Law Finally Signed Into Law

After languishing in limbo prior to being approved by the New York State Assembly and Senate in June, Governor Hochul finally signed into law a bill that significantly raises penalties issued to negligent companies found criminally liable for construction worker deaths and injuries. 

Carlos’ Law raises the minimum felony criminal fines for construction worker injuries or deaths to $500,000, which is up from a meager $10,000, the highest fine allowed under the law in similar cases. The law is titled after Carlos Moncayo, a 22-year-old construction worker who died in a tragic trench collapse in Manhattan in 2015. The companies that were found guilty only paid $10,000 in fines, which was the maximum penalty during that time. The amount outraged construction workers, advocates, and some lawmakers and prosecutors in the state.

With Carlos’ Law, companies who are found guilty of criminal liability will face a fine of $300,000 or higher for a misdemeanor conviction and up to $500,000 for a felony conviction. Under the law, a company can be found criminally liable when it knowingly, intentionally, recklessly, or negligently causes serious injury or the death of an employee.

Reach Out to an Experienced Brooklyn Construction Accident Lawyer Now

While construction sites are inherently dangerous, they do not have to be deadly. If you have been injured in a construction accident in New York or lost a loved one, please get in touch with the Brooklyn construction accident lawyer at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman. You can find out more about your case by arranging a free case evaluation with our Brooklyn construction accident lawyer online or by phone at 212-285-3300.