The recent penalties issued to a utility contractor in Florida underscores the many ways in which employers expose their workers to life-threatening hazards. Too many workers suffer catastrophic injuries or even lose their lives due to business owners’ noncompliance with federal safety regulations. While the fact that workers’ compensation benefits are available may provide some comfort, it could never replace a lost limb or loved one.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a fine of over $270,000 for one willful and one serious violation after concluding an investigation. The incident involved a collapsed trench that caused injuries to one worker. OSHA inspectors say they found workers in trenches with no cave-in protection. Furthermore, water had collected in the bottom of the excavation while work was underway.
The citations issued included violations of struck-by, caught-in and caught-by hazards. These types of injuries have been concerning issues that are aggressively addressed by safety agencies. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, struck-by incidents caused the deaths of over 800 construction workers nationwide from 2011 through 2015.
While safety authorities are now prioritizing regulations and enforcement with relation to these specific injury types, the fact remains that are insufficient OSHA compliance inspectors available to enforce the regulations. In the meantime, injured workers and surviving family members can pursue financial relief through the workers’ compensation insurance system. This process could be challenging, but an experienced Florida attorney can help navigate the proceedings. Benefits typically cover medical expenses or end-of-life costs along with wage replacement based upon the worker’s last reported income.
Source: constructiondive.com, “Trench and excavation fatalities rise, regulators prioritize safety“, Kim Slowey, March 29, 2018