In wake of construction fatality, MassCOSH demands employers improve safety record

July 24, 2013

As the construction season heats up and buildings begin to break ground, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) reminds employers that construction remains one of the most deadly industries for Massachusetts workers and that worker safety should be their first priority. The sober and urgent reminder comes one day after a 26-year old man was killed while preparing to construct a concrete wall for a new hotel at a Pinehills construction site near Plymouth, MA.
News reports state the worker was fatally injured when a concrete form he was working on collapsed, crushing him beneath a massive wall of wooden frames and rebar. Co-workers used heavy equipment to lift the wall off the young man, but there was nothing paramedics or could do for him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. State and local police and members of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating the cause of the accident.

Less than a week ago, a construction worker in Meriden, CT was seriously injured when a concrete retaining wall collapsed and pinned him against a dump truck. In 2011, two Wisconsin contracting companies were accused of willfully violating federal safety standards in a similar accident after the death of a worker who was crushed by a wet concrete wall at a plant construction site.
“Constructing concrete walls are especially dangerous because the tremendous weight of the wall that needs to be supported,” said Robert Burns, MassCOSH trainer. “There are risks of serious injuries, and even death, when the shoring used to support the wall is inadequate. Because of the inherent dangers of the weight and instability of temporary walls, OSHA requires that, during the erection process, the temporary walls be adequately supported to prevent them from collapsing.”
If the constuction company is found to have failed to ensure adequate bracing to support the walls, the company could face a willful violation — OSHA’s highest level of infraction. A willful violation reflects either “intentional disregard” for the law or “plain indifference” to employee safety and health.
According to MassCOSH’s 2013 report “Dying for Work in Massachusetts,” The construction industry remains one of the most dangerous for workers, with six on the job fatalities occurring in 2012, 19% of total workers killed in the state that year. That same year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and OSHA launched a campaign to educate employers and workers about the urgent need for fall prevention measures, the leading cause of fatal accidents in the field.
“Given the life-threatening risks construction workers face when working at heights, particularly when on or near concrete forms, employers need to be vigilant about instituting all safety measures,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “We see too many workers lost to preventable accidents.  Our hearts go out to this young man’s family. MassCOSH will continue to fight for good safe jobs until every worker can return home from work safe and healthy every day.”