On April 3, 2023, tragedy struck at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, when two workers from Triumph Construction Corp. lost their lives in a devastating construction accident. A subsequent investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uncovered critical lapses in safety protocols that could have prevented this tragedy.
Two dedicated employees of Triumph Construction Corp. found themselves in a perilous situation as they attempted to remove soil from below a concrete slab within a trench. The concrete slab unexpectedly broke apart and collapsed, fatally crushing both workers.
In the aftermath of the incident, OSHA launched an investigation to determine the cause and circumstances surrounding this construction accident. The findings were deeply troubling and raised serious concerns about the safety practices at Triumph Construction Corp.
1. Lack of Proper Support: OSHA inspectors found that the concrete slab was not adequately supported, exposing both employees to the imminent danger of a collapse. Inadequate support in excavation work is a grave violation of safety standards.
2. Absence of Safe Work Procedures: Triumph Construction Corp. failed to provide its employees with proper training and instructions on safe methods to remove the concrete slab. Furthermore, there was no supervision in place to ensure that these methods were followed. This lack of guidance significantly increased the risk to the workers.
3. Non-Compliance with OSHA Standards: The company was cited for not constructing the excavation’s protective system based on designs in accordance with OSHA standards. Adherence to these standards is vital to safeguarding the lives of workers in construction environments.
As a result of these serious violations, Triumph Construction Corp. now faces four citations from OSHA, along with proposed penalties totaling $59,153.
These penalties, while they may provide some measure of accountability, cannot bring back the lives lost in this tragic accident.
A Call for Vigilance and Responsibility
The director of OSHA’s Long Island and Queens area, Kevin Sullivan, emphasized the inherent dangers of working in excavations. He stressed the importance of meticulous planning and the construction of proper shoring systems in demolition of existing structures. Employers have an ethical and legal obligation to recognize, evaluate, and control construction site hazards. In this instance, Triumph Construction Corp. failed to fulfill this obligation.
Mr. Sullivan noted that diligent oversight and management of changing worksite conditions could have potentially prevented this tragedy. It serves as a stark reminder to all construction companies that safety must be an unwavering priority.
The construction industry is essential for the growth and development of our communities, but it must not come at the cost of human lives. The construction accident at JFK Airport, resulting in the loss of two workers’ lives, serves as a somber reminder of the need for unwavering commitment to safety. Triumph Construction Corp.’s failure to provide the necessary safeguards and training has led to a devastating outcome.
Aerial view of JFK Airport: courtesy of Wikipedia