Articles Posted in Worker Safety

DSC_2035-199x300According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrocutions are the third highest cause of construction worker deaths. Many electrical injuries and fatalities occur after a crane comes into contact with a powerline and the electrical current travels through the crane to the operator of the equipment. In order to help prevent these accidents from ever occurring, OSHA created extensive construction workplace safety rules for the operation of cranes and booms operating near powerlines. (29 C.F.R. 1926.1408).

Under the OSHA regulation, before beginning equipment operations an employer must complete a number of steps. First, the employer must identify the work zone. The employer can either mark off the boundaries and prohibit equipment operators from going beyond the marked boundaries, or the employer can define the work zone as 360 degrees around the equipment up to the maximum working radius.

If any part of the construction equipment could get closer than 20 feet to a powerline within the identified work zone, the employer must take additional steps and complete one of the following options:

crane-collapse-seattle-300x169A construction crane collapsed from the roof of a building on Saturday afternoon tragically killing four people and injuring four others. Two of the people killed were ironworkers and two others were bystanders. The crane was positioned on the new Google Seattle campus and was in the process of being dismantled when it fell.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is investigating five companies involved in the accident: Seaburg Construction Corp., GLY Construction, Northwest Tower Crane Service Inc., Omega Rigging and Machinery Moving Inc., and Morrow Equipment Co. LLC. The Department of Labor and Industries spokesman said that it is too early to speculate on the cause of the accident and the investigation could take up to six months and would including interviewing workers and accessing company records among other investigation.

According to an article by CNN, after a construction company is finished using a crane, disassembly can take between two and three days. The disassembly process requires taking the crane apart piece by piece. The article suggested that construction workers could have prematurely removed or loosened the pins connecting the crane all at once instead of in sections. Workers sometimes do this in order to save time during dismantling. But if pins are removed prematurely, portions of the crane become unsecure and unstable. At the time of the accident, relatively minor wind gusts between 18 and 23 mph were reported in the area and could have contributed to the collapse.

On September 26, 2016, two men were seriously injured when a crane at a construction site in West Seattle made contact with overhead power lines close to the job site.  The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. near 42nd Avenue Southwest and Southwest Oregon Street.  As lawyers representing injured construction workers, we have unfortunately seen these types of incidents many times in the past.

Data from the NIOSH National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System indicates that electrocutions accounted for approximately 450 of the 6,400 work-related deaths that occurred annually in the United States from 1980-1989.  Preventing Electrocutions of Crane Operators and Crew Members Working Near Overhead Power Lines, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 95-108 (May 1995).  In the four-year period from 1985 to 1989, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported 113 deaths from crane and boom truck contact with overhead power lines.  Id.  Nearly 30 percent of all electrocutions on the job site involve crane and boom operation.  Id.

As a direct result of the hundreds of electrocutions throughout the nation caused by crane and boom truck contact with overhead power lines, a number of regulatory standards have been established to prevent these tragic deaths by state and federal governments.  On the national and international level, OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have adopted strict standards to help prevent work site electrocutions.  See 29 CFR 1926.550; Mobile and Locomotive Cranes, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME B30.5-1994.

Working in the construction industry can be a very challenging and dangerous occupation.  At Kraft Davies we represent both residential and commercial construction workers.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are approximately 6,000,000 people working in the construction industry.  In 2014, 4,821 workers died on-the-job; and roughly 20 percent of those deaths were construction worker fatalities.  Among construction worker deaths, there were four leading causes that amounted to over 50 percent of the total deaths; 1) Falls – 359 deaths; 2) Electrocutions – 74 deaths; 3) Struck by Objection – 73 deaths; 4) Caught-in/between – 12 deaths. Construction work can be dangerous, as evident by the 2009 fatal occupational injury rate nearly three times that of all workers in the United States (9.7 injuries 100,000 full-time equivalent construction vs. 3.3 for all workers).  The construction industry also encompassed three of the top ten occupations with the highest fatal injury rate: 1) Roofers; 2) Structural iron and steel workers; 3) Laborers.  Among the frequently cited OSHA standards violated in fiscal year 2015 were two construction specific violations; 1) Fall Protection and 2) Scaffolding.  Falls are the greatest cause of fatal construction injuries.

At Kraft Davies we suggest taking the following safety measures to help ensure a safe construction working environment.

Protecting against falls in a construction zone can greatly reduce injuries and fatalities for the most lethal part of the construction industry.  To protect against falls, guardrails, safety nets, floor covers, and restraint systems should be put in place.

Around 8:00 a.m. on Friday, July 1, 2016, a box truck hit the elevated arm of a man lift stationed under the West Seattle Bridge, knocking two workers out of the lift. The workers were involved in the Fauntleroy Expressway Bearing Pad Replacement Project. One of the workers fell approximately fifteen feet to a ramp below and suffered serious injuries; the other worker fell all the way to the ground where the lift was parked under the bridge (about 50 feet) and died today at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The box truck was proceeding on an off ramp at the time of the crash. We extend our deepest condolences to the injured worker, and the families of both victims.

Incidents like this have broad legal implications with respect to claims available to the surviving worker and the deceased victim’s family. Workers injured on the job cannot sue their employer directly for damages related to their injuries pursuant to Washington’s workers compensation scheme. However, when an accident is caused by the negligence of a third party (someone other than the victim’s employer), those injured, or the survivors of those killed often have claims against the negligent party.

For example, in this situation, the victims and their families likely would be entitled to bring claims against the driver of the box truck that hit the man lift. In addition, since box trucks are often owned by businesses and used for business purposes, there are also potential claims against the business that owned the truck. Furthermore, many construction projects involve work by various contractors. Although claims do not lie against the workers’ own employer, there may be claims against other contractors involved in the project (i.e. was another company responsible for limiting access to the roadway during the work, but failed to do so?).

A group of Sea-Tac Airport workers say their daily work routine is filled with safety violations and health hazards. The workers claim they’re exposed to jet fuel, harsh chemicals and even human waste.

The dozens of workers who have stepped forward with complaints say their jobs are no longer safe, and they point to airplane refueling trucks run by ASIG, which they say often leak.

“At least once a day I’ll go out and something’s leaking, leaking jet fuel somewhere. And while they’ll go out and fix it, it will be back in a maintenance bay within a few days,” said a fuel truck worker.

Seattle – Two construction workers were injured and taken to Harborview Medical Center after they after they were injured this morning in an accident at a parking garage under construction at the intersection of First Avenue and King Street.

The two men were working on the roof of the structure when they were struck by a wall of rebar. One worker suffered moderate to serious injuries while the second man’s injuries weren’t as serious, according to the Seattle Fire Department.

Under Washington law, the general contractor in-charge of the construction has an obligation to enforce job safety work regulations.  It is important after these types of events that a complete and prompt investigation is conducted to determine whether safety regulations were violated and whether the men involved would be entitled to compensation for their injuries.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact one of our lawyers.

Cleaning of the Legislative Building was suspended indefinitely yesterday after a platform similar to that used by window washers gave way, leaving one worker suspended by his life line 40 feet above the ground for about two minutes. There had been two workers in the rectangular mobile platform preparing to pressure-wash a portion of the building when the platform gave way. It was not immediately clear how the second worker reached safety.

The employee of Seattle-based Western Waterproofing Co. was pulled to safety on the fourth-floor roof by a co-worker just as Olympia Fire Department personnel arrived on the scene about 7:10 a.m. to assist.

Work on the $1.148 million project has been halted until all the scaffolding and equipment are checked, and the dozen or so employees assigned to the job go through additional safety training.

SEATTLE – A heavy equipment operator suffered life-threatening injuries Saturday when a huge slab of concrete fell at a building demolition project on the University of Washington campus, crushing the cab of a crane and trapping the man inside for nearly two hours.

Emergency crews rushed to the scene, in the 1200 block of North Campus Parkway, at about 8:50 a.m. after receiving a report of a construction accident.

Arriving there, they learned that a 40,000-pound slab of concrete measuring about 15 feet by 30 feet fell six stories onto the crane as it was working inside an enclosed area at the construction site.

While you won’t hear it ticking, your body clock naturally follows a 24-hour cycle of wakefulness and sleepiness which in turn is naturally linked to nature’s patterns of light and darkness. When this cycle is disrupted by shift work, it is not easily rebalanced or reset.

Shift workers may find that it takes up to one full week to adjust fully to changes in their sleep schedule. When the natural sleep pattern is disturbed due to a fluctuating work schedule it disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm or one’s body clock. This disturbance often leads to under sleeping, oversleeping or restless sleep because the body is not fully committed to shutting down at the anticipated time as well as not having a sense for when it should be waking up.

The body’s natural rhythm operates at its best with 7 – 8 hours of continuous sleep. Studies have shown that if the sleep pattern is disrupted or too often altered, the body no longer has the necessary time to restore energy supplies and for the human brain to function optimally.