Court decision upholds penalty in Tarrytown worker deaths

ALBANY, NY (01/29/2015)(readMedia)-- A significant court decision has upheld the willful violation citation the state Department of Labor issued to the Village of Tarrytown in Westchester County following the tragic deaths of two CSEA members there on Sept. 6, 2010.

The Department of Labor's Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau (PESH) issued a willful violation citation after CSEA members Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly died from asphyxiation from losing consciousness and falling in a village manhole. The Village of Tarrytown was cited for knowing the requirements of entering a permit-required confined space and not following the regulations. The decision to dismiss the Village of Tarrytown's appeal came Jan. 21, 2015 from the state Supreme Court Appellate Division.

"This decision affirms that it is first and foremost the employer's responsibility to provide safe working conditions and the training required for workers to carry out their jobs in a safe manner," said CSEA President Danny Donohue. "The court has reinforced that workplace safety is a right. CSEA will continue to fight to ensure employers provide all workers with the safe working conditions."

Ruggiero, a CSEA Village of Tarrytown Unit member, reported to work on Labor Day 2010 to fix a sewer blockage in a village manhole. Overcome by fumes, he fell while descending into the manhole. Kelly, a local volunteer firefighter who was a CSEA member and state Department of Transportation employee, also lost consciousness and fell while trying to rescue Ruggiero. Neither man had received recent training, through the village or the local fire department, on permit-required confined space safety.

"While no citation will bring back these two men, the decision to uphold the PESH citation acknowledges that Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly were failed by the safety practices or lack thereof in Tarrytown," said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo. "I hope that village leaders in Tarrytown can continue the strides they've since made in improving their workplace safety practices. CSEA has offered all available resources to get Tarrytown in compliance and to have them stay in compliance. We want to see labor and management partnering to make workplace safety a top priority in Tarrytown and all work sites."

Following the PESH citation, the Village of Tarrytown appealed to the state Industrial Board of Appeals (IBA), which subsequently affirmed the PESH findings. Village officials continued to fight the citation by appealing to the state Supreme Court.

"We are pleased that the court has upheld the appropriate citation after what was a clear violation of the law," said CSEA Westchester County Local President John Staino. "Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly should never have lost their lives, and as a union we will work to have management provide safe workplaces so this never happens again."