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Contractor Charged in Fatal Fall

Thursday, June 9, 2016

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A New York-based concrete contractor and his companies have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges in connection with the falling death of a worker.

Vidal Sanchez-Ramon, 50, had been walking backwards, raking freshly poured concrete, when he plunged six stories to his death in April 2015 at a commercial building under construction in Brighton Beach, NY.

The father of three was not provided with life-saving fall protection equipment, authorities claim.

Prosecutors allege that Salvatore Schirripa, 66, and his companies, J & M Metro General Contracting Corp. and Metrotech Development Corp., of Brooklyn, ignored fall protection regulations and failed to correct unsafe conditions, which resulted in tragedy.

© iStock.com / Bogdanhoda

The case stems from the falling death of Vidal Sanchez-Ramon, a 50-year-old concrete worker.

If convicted, Schirripa faces up to 15 years in prison, according to Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters.

On Monday (June 6), Schirripa pleaded not guilty to the charges, including manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and falsifying business records. It is also alleged that he failed to maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage for his employees.

The Fatal Fall

According to the indictment, at approximately 11 a.m. on April 1, 2015, three of Schirripa’s employees were smoothing the concrete along one edge of the building, outside a wire cable protective fence, without harnesses or any fall protection as required by the New York City Building Code and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

While walking backwards, using a rake-like instrument to smooth the concrete in front of him, Sanchez-Ramon reached the edge and fell.

As the employer and foreman on the project, Schirripa was responsible for ensuring his workers’ safety, including providing fall protection when they worked on any unprotected work area at a height of six feet or more above the level below, prosecutors said.

OSHA launched an investigation into the death, issuing one willful and five serious and violations, carrying proposed fines of $84,600 in the case in October 2015. The agency’s database shows the fines under contest.

Unsafe Conditions

Schirripa had been aware of the unsafe conditions at the jobsite, according to authorities.

Since January 2015, he and his employees poured the concrete floors, from the bottom up, pouring one floor approximately every other week, after the steel subcontractor installed the steel deck and a wire cable fence at the perimeter of the work area, around steel supporting columns, as fall protection.

On several locations on the third, fourth and fifth floors, Schirripa allegedly saw that the wire cable fence installed by the steel subcontractor was set in several feet from the edge, leaving an unprotected work surface between the fence and the edge.

Ken Thompson
Official Photo

"As buildings go up all over Brooklyn, we owe it to every construction worker to make sure that they don’t lose their lives due to short cuts on safety," said District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Days before the fatal fall, Schrippa was said to have visited the worksite and observed the wire cable fence positioned several feet in from the edge, along one entire side of the sixth floor.

Schirripa allegedly knew that his workers would have to step outside the protective fence to complete the installation, but he ignored the unsafe conditions and failed to provide harnesses or other fall protection for his workers, authorities relate.

Past Safety Lapses

Prosecutors say Schirripa had a history of ignoring safety procedures related to fall hazards.

For example, on four separate occasions at other worksites, the Department of Buildings inspectors issued Notices of Violations ordering the contractor to provide guardrail systems and handrails to protect workers.

Commitment to Safety

“A hardworking man died tragically and unnecessarily because proper safety measures were not taken to protect his life,” District Attorney Thompson said in a statement.

“As buildings go up all over Brooklyn, we owe it to every construction worker to make sure that they don’t lose their lives due to short cuts on safety. This indictment for manslaughter reflects that commitment.”

At the time OSHA issued its fines, Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York said, “We remind employers that these are people, not numbers. Employers must use appropriate and effective required fall protection measures at all times.”

Falls are the number one cause of death in the construction industry and fall protection violations remain at the top of OSHA's most frequently cited violations.


Tagged categories: concrete; Criminal acts; Enforcement; Ethics; Fatalities; Health and safety

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