TARRYTOWN – New York State’s
top court affirmed a panel ruling that The Village of Tarrytown violated
state labor law when two of its municipal employees went into a confined
space where there was a sewer blockage and both men died of asphyxiation,
a court ruled.
On September 6, 2010, an employee of the Tarrytown DPW went into a 20-foot deep manhole in an attempt to repair a sewer problem. During his descent, he lost consciousness and fell to the bottom. In an attempted rescue, a Tarrytown volunteer firefighter also lost consciousness and fell.
Killed in the accident were firefighter John Kelly and DPW worker Anthony Ruggiero.
The state Department of Labor’s Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau investigated and issued a notice of violation and order to comply pertaining to the protection of employees from the hazards of entry into permit-required confined spaces.
The village appealed the ruling and following a hearing the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals affirmed the labor department’s findings.
Tarrytown later sought to have the decision overturned in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court. The court last week rejected that appeal saying the evidence established Tarrytown officials were aware of the requirements of those state regulations.
“Although the petitioner [the village] allegedly restricted its DPW employees from entering confined spaces, a practice existed in which its DPW employees entered such confined spaces,” the justices wrote. “The evidence also showed that the petitioner did not implement a written permit space program for volunteer firefighters. In addition, the evidence demonstrates that the petitioner’s management made little or no effort to communicate the requirements of the subject regulation to its lower level supervisors and employees.”