Not an “accident”: Jesus Mendizabal, 43, suffers fatal work-related injury on Staten Island, NY

By | 2018-01-22T20:32:43+00:00 December 4th, 2014|1 Comment

Jesus Velazquez Mendizabal, 43, suffered fatal traumatic injuries on Friday, November 28, while working for Formica Construction in Travis, NY located on Staten Island. provides some of the details on the worker’s death:

  • “Mendizabal and three workers were dismantling the old [Dana Ford Lincoln] dealership…when the mezzanine gave out and collapsed to the ground.”
  • Mendizabal was “trapped under the rubble. …The other three workers escaped the cave-in unharmed.”
  • Mendizabal had been employed by Formica Construction for 10 years. reports:

  • “Officials say they received a report of a collapse around 8:15 a.m. Friday. …“There was a major response to the accident—as many as 50 fire trucks arrived at the scene.” adds:

  • Formica Construction “did not have a valid permit to work at the site, according to Buildings Department records.”
  • The company “had obtained seven permits related to construction at the West Service Road site since last August, but none are currently valid, [Buildings Department] records show. The most recent permit expired on Aug. 15.”

Especially  disturbing is that Mendizabal’s death is not the first work-related fatality involving a Formica Construction employee. reports:

  • “Ken Formica, the company’s owner, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the December 2003 death of Formica worker Lorenzo Pavia, 39, who was asphyxiated after a deep, unshored trench caved in on him and another worker.” …“Formica, who admitted he knew the trench he sent Pavia and another employee to work in was not safe, was sentenced to 16 weekends in jail for the incident.”
  • “Although the company briefly had its license renewal denied by the Department of Consumer Affairs following Formica’s conviction, a judge annulled the DCA’s ruling on appeal and Formica’s license was renewed in 2009, records show.”

OSHA’s on-line inspection data shows the company paid a $13,975 penalty for 10 serious and one willful violation related to Lorenzo Pavia’s death. The criminal conviction of Ken Formica was brought by a New York State district attorney, not a result of a referral made by federal OSHA to the US Department of Justice.

More recently, OSHA’s on-line inspection database shows a complaint received by the agency in January 2014 about Formica Construction. The record suggests that the construction site was not active at the time, no inspection was conducted and the case was closed. OSHA’s on-line data system does not indicate the nature of the complaint.

Each year, more than 100 workers in New York are fatally injured on-the-job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 160 work-related fatal injuries in New York during 2013 (preliminary data, most recent available.) Nationwide, at least 4,405 workers suffered fatal traumatic injuries in 2013.

The AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report notes:

  • Federal OSHA has 105 inspectors in New York to cover more than 521,000 workplaces.
  • The average penalty for a serious OSHA violation in New York is $2,016.

Federal OSHA has until the end of May 2015 to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole Jesus Velazquez Mendizabal ‘s life. It’s likely they’ll determine that Mendizabal’s death was preventable. It was no “accident.”


About the Author:

Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH
Celeste Monforton is a fellow in the Collegium Ramazzini; a lecturer at Texas State University; and professorial lecturer at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She receives funding from the Public Welfare Foundation.

One Comment

  1. Peter Dooley December 11, 2014 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Thanks for posting this tragic event. Having been born and raised in Staten Island, this hits close to home. I understand that a work center based [El Centro del immigrate Worker Center in Staten Island] is holding vigils to raise awareness about the injustice of this situation. We should all be outraged at the daily blood being spilled by workers because of the indifference of employers. Let’s make every death count towards the fight for worker’s rights.

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