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Court Finds for Construction Worker Injured at Globalfoundries

Posted on October 3, 2014 by Kelly Wolford

Globalfoundries held responsible for failing to provide needed safety equipment to prevent worker’s injuries during construction of its state of the art computer chip fab plant in Malta, New York.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence E. Kahn recently issued a 21-page decision (Lawler v. Globalfoundries U.S., Inc., and M+W U.S., Inc., Case No. 1:12-CV-0327 (LEK/RFT) finding that GlobalFoundries and its general contractor, M+W U.S. Inc. (now headquartered at 125 Monroe Street in Watervliet, New York) failed to provide adequate safety equipment to Michael Lawler, a pipefitter who fell into an uncovered access hole in the floor of the building’s clean room.

The clean room, where manufacturing of computer chips takes place, is built on top of a subfloor that creates a space for wires, pipes and supply lines feeding large machines, called “tools,” which produce computer chips, the decision states.

According to court documents, in order to work at the subfloor level, 2-by-2 foot tiles of the clean room floor were removed, creating access holes that allowed workers to enter the space below.

Whenever access holes were created, GlobalFoundries and M+W’s safety rules “called for using either a non-rigid/soft barricade with a spotter, or a rigid barricade and no spotter.” However, GlobalFoundries and M+W often disregarded their own safety rules over concern that the barricades damaged the clean room floors.

As described in the decision, while in performance of his duties at the jobsite, Mr. Lawler was exposed to an open and unprotected access hole. Mr. Lawler was momentarily distracted by a co-worker when he accidentally stepped into the unguarded hole and landed on the subfloor below, sustaining serious injuries.

In the decision, Judge Kahn found that, while GlobalFoundries and M+W’s safety rules did not require a device or other safety measure to prevent workers like Mr. Lawler from falling into the exposed access holes, New York’s safety statute (called New York’s “Scaffold Law”) did require it.

Section 240(1) of New York’s Labor Law was enacted over a century ago to protect construction workers from being injured by falls from elevations. The law provides zero tolerance for injuries due to lack of adequate safety devices.

Margie A. Soehl, Esq., a Partner of the Albany law firm of Powers & Santola, LLP, represented Mr. Lawler. Her practice is limited to the representation of serious and catastrophically injured individuals. Margie is one of Albany, New York’s few bilingual, English-Spanish speaking attorneys.

Founded in 1987, the law firm of Powers & Santola, LLP, assists individuals in Albany and Onondaga counties and throughout New York State who have suffered serious, catastrophic injuries due to the carelessness of others. The firm primarily focuses on medical malpracticedelayed cancer diagnosis and construction site accidents. The firm’s main office is located at 39 North Pearl Street, Suite 6, Albany, NY 12207 (local phone 518-465-5995). Please contact the firm to learn more.