When we hear of a manhole explosion, we normally attribute the explosion to Consolidated Edison’s manhole system. However, there are occasions when other manholes are involved in these explosions. In fact, there are thousands of other manholes throughout our region belonging to the City of New York and other entities. The failure of Con Ed and the City of New York, or other owners of manholes, to coordinate their activities and comply with industry standards can lead to catastrophic results.
This is illustrated by a case our office handled involving a construction worker who was involved in the alteration of a building owned by the City of New York. Unbeknownst to the worker, at the time of his accident, he was standing over a manhole which contained highly combustible gases due to cracks in the foundation of the adjoining building which permitted combustible gases to escape into the manhole. In addition, combustible gas from an adjacent Con Ed manhole also traveled into the City of New York manhole.
After an extensive investigation, we proved that the failure of Con Ed and the companies that constructed the City of New York manhole to coordinate their work and seal the conduits between the two manholes resulted in a catastrophic explosion. To make matters worse, in the several days prior to our client’s accident, there were several “notices of unsafe atmosphere” which showed that there were unsafe levels of combustible gases present at the construction site.
Due to the nature of the work at this site, combustible gas was a particular concern and gas levels were required to be monitored throughout the day. Unfortunately, the general contractor, and the companies hired to perform air monitoring, failed to comply with industry standards and determine the cause of the combustible gas before permitting workers to resume their activity.
We established that job site specifications required that all underground conduits between manholes be sealed. The obvious reason for this requirement, is to prevent any combustible gases or sparks to travel from one manhole to another through an unsealed conduit. After numerous depositions, we demonstrated that the contractors involved in the excavation of the City of New York manhole, failed to seal the conduits, resulting in combustible gases and sparks freely traveling between the conduits, which ultimately resulted in 2 manhole covers, each weighing several hundred pounds, to blow up in a densely populated residential area next to a freeway.
Due to the severity of his injuries, our client was unable to return to construction work, but with the assistance of expert testimony, we were able to establish liability on numerous entities responsible for this explosion, and provide financial security for our client and his family.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a manhole explosion, please contact our office.