Lives in New Jersey, injured in Manhattan / This story is told by Alejandro Alpirez, with assistance from his attorney Marc Rothenberg and his Spanish-speaking paralegal. Alejandro suffered a traumatic brain injury and numerous bodily injuries after falling from a scaffold, which forever changed his life. The severity of Alejandro’s fall highlights the importance of having strong worker safety laws in New York, including a strong scaffold provision (Labor Law 240).
I came to America from Guatemala to support my family and give them a better life. On February 11, 2008, I was working as a day laborer on the sixteenth floor of a building on 1107 Broadway in Manhattan. I was standing on a two-level scaffold and doing demolition work. Inside the building, I was told to cut a metal pipe near the ceiling with an electric chain saw. The ceiling pipe was not secured; it fell and hit me in the head. Then the pipe struck the scaffold, causing it to shake and move and I fell off it. I was working on construction jobs in New York for three months before the accident. I was 38 years old at the time.
According to doctors and a witness, I became unconscious when I landed on my head after falling from the scaffold. I spent several weeks in a coma and have significant neurological problems. I can barely see. I’ve lost sight of my right eye and can only see a little out of my left eye. I have hearing loss on both sides. I needed surgery for injuries to my brain, face and knee. I also suffered debilitating injuries to my neck, back and wrist.
On and prior to the day of my fall, I was never provided proper safety equipment. I was not given a safety harness, a lanyard or even a place to anchor a lanyard had I been provided with one. The scaffold was unsecure, it had no guardrails, no handrails, and it was not fully planked. When the pipe hit the scaffold, it shook because it was not tied down to any windows or walls. The New York City Department of Buildings later inspected the worksite and issued several statutory violations of workplace safety.
Although other workers suffered minor injuries at my worksite, no one said anything. We were paid by the week and the employer told us what to do. If we said anything, we could be fired on the spot. That’s why the scaffold law is so important. After my injury and the citations issued, my employer bought safety harnesses to give to the workers.
Now I live in Plainview, New Jersey with some family members who care for me every day. Life is just very difficult. Four years after my accident, I am still in constant pain and am always on medication. I have short-term memory loss- I can’t remember what I had for breakfast and need to write everything down on a pad. I can’t do normal tasks like getting dressed, shaving or showering. The headaches and sleep disturbances are constant. I can’t walk long distances, and have pain all the time and especially whenever I am sitting or bending my back. I can’t drive, cook or clean and I can’t be left alone. I am just very thankful to my family for their care and support.