The metal also struck a second worker, breaking his arm.
Camden County officials at the scene said there was no foul play in the death of Donatius J. McMahon, a 44-year-old father of two from Delran, N.J. The incident appears to have been an "industrial accident," the county prosecutor said.
McMahon, a glazier for King Glass Co. of Scranton, Pa., and another worker whose name was not released were standing on a mechanized platform as they took apart a metal mast affixed to a building. The mast was part of the scaffolding system workers had used to install windows.
The two workers had started taking apart the mast from the top and were at the bottom section, about 30 feet from the ground, when the metal broke loose. After the piece fell, the workers' platform tipped, spilling both to the ground, investigators said.
Officials could not yet say how the metal had become dislodged. Federal OSHA officials were investigating to make sure no safety standards had been violated.
The building, a part of Camden County College's expansion, is 95 percent complete.
"Don McMahon was a great guy, well-liked, a terrific union man," said Joe Ashdale, a union official for Philadelphia-based Glaziers Local 252 of District Council 21. "When we lose somebody, it's the same as losing a member of our family."
King Glass is a subcontractor working for the site's general contractor, Turner Construction Co., a 101-year-old company based in New York that had $6.2 billion worth of projects last year. Turner and King Glass have good safety records, according to OSHA records: King Glass has been investigated three times since 1994 and cited twice for violations; Turner has been cited for five violations in the past 12 months, a good record for such a large construction company, according to an OSHA spokesperson.