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New Jersey worker dies in Maplewood masonry collapse

Safety can take a backseat when precautions aren't used to protect Bergen County construction workers. Employees may be seriously injured or die by failing to follow the right safety procedures or wear protective gear. The worker may be blamed, but in many cases, an employer or third party is liable for harm.

Three construction employees recently were working on a staircase project in Maplewood during a masonry collapse. The men were in the basement of a restaurant, the Coda Kitchen & Bar, when the construction site accident occurred. The fallen masonry trapped and killed a 51-year-old worker and seriously injured one of the other men.

A firefighting official said the masonry in the 1930s-era building, a former supermarket, toppled into the basement from the first floor. The restaurant owner ordered the excavation project so employees could get to the basement without having to go outdoors. Work permits had been issued, and an inspection of the premises was conducted two days before the collapse.

Downtown Maplewood is home to several buildings containing old masonry, a deputy fire chief noted. Fifteen years ago, a woman died a few blocks away from the Coda in a brick wall collapse. An overhang came loose and pulled the wall down with it.

Construction accidents can be prevented when employees are properly licensed, trained and protected. Employers are responsible for hiring qualified workers and teaching them to operate safely in a potentially dangerous environment. A construction site injury or fatality often can be traced to a defective tool, a faulty machine or unsafe conditions that are not an employee's fault.

Compensation for work-related injuries and deaths is provided to Bergen County victims and their families through workers' compensation. Benefits pay for medical bills and related expenses like lost wages. Depending upon how and why an accident occurred, additional monetary relief may be available through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Source: The Star-Ledger, "Internal collapse in Maplewood restaurant kills 1, injures 1" Seth Augenstein, May. 30, 2014

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