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OSHA investigating Staten Island ceiling collapse

New York business property owners, like residential landlords, owe a duty of care to their tenants, visitors and any workers invited to do work on the premises. Negligence may have tragic consequences and cause serious injuries and fatalities.

The U.S. Occupational and Health Administration in New York commenced an investigation into the collapse of a building mezzanine of an old Ford dealership in Staten Island that was undergoing demolition. In the collapse, a 43-year-old construction worker was killed. Buildings Department Records show that the demolition company performing the work and which employed the worker did not have a valid permit.

The deceased worker and three others were dismantling the dealership when the mezzanine collapsed. The victim was trapped under debris and was later pronounced dead at Richmond University Medical Center in West Brighton. The other workers were unharmed.

The OSHA investigation is in its initial stages and will determine whether there were violations of workplace safety standards and include a review of the work that was performed, the equipment, the procedures and the employers who were involved in the demolition. Completion of the investigation could take weeks or even several months.

A DOB spokesperson said that the building’s owners are responsible for ensuring that work performed on its property complies with building and zoning regulations although the demolition company was responsible for obtaining permits. The owners do not have an OSHA inspection history.

The building’s owners, however, were name in the Department of Building’s online complaint report for this incident. The DOB and local law enforcement officials are also conducting an investigation. A law enforcement source said that criminal charges are possible.

OSHA has cited the demolition company in the past for workplace safety violations. It issued 13 violations, 10 serious, against the company in 2003 when a 15-foot deep trench collapsed and killed a 39-year-old worker. OSHA, however, has not censured the company for violations in addition to collecting fines for the 2003 accident.

Premises liability laws may help employees and their families in these types of situations. People injued because of the negligence of another should make sure to understand all their legal rights.