The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration reported over 4,300 on-the-job deaths last year. Nearly one in five fatalities in private industries happened at construction sites. Falls caused 278 employee deaths, while another 78 construction workers died after being struck by objects.
A University of Illinois graduate was working in construction as a bridge between his degree and a future in economics. The 25-year-old was part of a demolition crew employed in a North Chicago suburb. The workers at the Westfield Hawthorne Mall were out late at night, attempting to knock down the wall of a closed restaurant.
Three construction workers were struck by falling concrete when a section of wall collapsed. The young worker died of his injuries.
Federal investigators responded rapidly to check the fatal accident site for safety violations. The main contractor assigned to the demolition project had a clean record.
OSHA determined, if the construction industry could rid itself of four specific injuries, 435 workers' lives could be saved each year. Falls, objects striking workers, electrocutions and entrapment are the most common causes for construction workers' deaths.
Employers are liable for the safety of the people who work for them. A dangerous work environment frequently is due to carelessness or neglect. Built-in risks are associated with jobs like construction, but employers are responsible for making sure hazards are minimized.
Among other violations, construction businesses may be held accountable for hiring unqualified workers, failing to train properly and lax or missing safety plans. Personal injury and wrongful death claims can reveal that an employer skimped on safety to increase profit. A co-worker also may be blamed for a reckless or negligent act.
Lawsuits for fatal workplace accidents can involve disputes over workers' compensation benefits or damages by an uninsured third-party, like the manufacturer of a piece of construction equipment that failed. An attorney can ensure that plaintiffs seek the maximum compensation.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Palos Park native, 25, dies in mall demolition mishap" Robert McCoppin, Dec. 27, 2013