This chapter focuses on the workers who helped build the Holland Tunnel. These men were commonly known as “sandhogs” because they worked in compressed-air environments. Most were immigrants from countries such as England, Scotland, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Poland, Hungary, or the West Indies. The work they did was dangerous, even by the low worker-safety standards of the age in which they lived. Many died from decompression sickness, later called caisson disease and commonly known as “the bends.” It is hard to know just how many men died or suffered severe injury as a result of caisson disease while working underground in New York. In an attempt to limit liability, and to avoid public or governmental calls for improved safety procedures, contractors routinely blamed workers for accidents and encouraged falsification of death certificates.
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