The construction manager of a renovation project on side-by-side Upper West Side townhomes fell one story to his death down an open elevator shaft, reported theNew York Post (1.21.15). Frank Dragotta, 61, had been supervising the project at the two five-story, 1880s properties at 130 and 132 West 70th St. The buildings were being combined into a single home on behalf of a hedge-fund manager.
According to the tabloid, the city Department of Buildings cited the property for failing to install a guardrail around the opening. If there had been adequate fall protection, Dragotta’s death could have prevented.
Open shafts are well known hazards in the construction industry. Falls were the leading cause of construction deaths in 2013. A rulefrom the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that if a worker is more than six feet above a lower level, safety protection must be used. Workers who are at this height or above are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall.
Research produced in 2006 by Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) as part of a research agreement with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) determined that accidents involving elevators and escalators seriously injure about 17,000 people each year and kill 30 in the United States. Elevators caused the most accidents, accounting for almost 90% of the deaths and 60% of the serious injuries. Injuries to people working on or near elevators accounted for almost half of the annual deaths. Half of the deaths of workers working in or near elevator shafts were linked to falls into the shaft.
Scaffolding, guardrails in front of open shafts, safety net systems, and personal fall protection system are examples of proper fall protection. To protect workers from falls, employers should incorporate safety issues in work planning by identifying all fall hazards at the construction site and eliminating them, by conducting regular safety inspections, by training employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions, and by providing employees with protective equipment and training them how to wear and use it.