A construction worker died from injuries sustained in a fall at a Stamford work site on October 25, 2011. The man was reportedly installing a roof at the new Chelsea Piers sports complex. In gusty wind conditions, and without wearing a safety harness, he fell 50 feet to his death around 1:00 p.m. Two of the man’s brothers were present at the worksite when he fell. Emergency responders said that he was unresponsive when they arrived at the scene.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has shut down the site pending an investigation into the accident. The roofing project at Chelsea Piers is being overseen by contracting firm American Building Group. The Stamford Advocate notes that American Building Group has a history of OSHA investigations over the past several years, including violations related to scaffolding in 1999 and 2005. An August 1999 inspection led OSHA to cite the company for problems with scaffolding, electrical systems, and a shortage of personal protective equipment. It fined the company $5,400 for six violations. In 2005, OSHA fined the company $7,050 for scaffolding and heavy equipment problems. The most serious violation came in 2006, when OSHA found that the company had not adequately protected workers at an excavation site and fined the company $20,000.
Since the investigation by OSHA is still underway, it is premature to do any more than speculate on how liability may ultimately be apportioned in this case. Key questions involve the employment relationship between the worker and the general contractor, the involvement of other subcontractors in any conditions leading to the accident, and negligence on the part of the worker that might offset a contractor’s liability. The answers to most of these questions are not known, either because investigations are underway or information is not available from the media. Still, they are worth exploring.