Tragedy struck a Florida construction company last week after 3 construction workers passed away while working underground below a newly paved road. Another volunteer firefighter is in critical condition, and possibly in a coma according to WSVN Miami, after entering the manhole trying to save the victims.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the deaths, but CBS4 Miami reported that the men entered the manhole to investigate a strong rotten egg smell that nearby residents were complaining about. CBS4 was told by a law enforcement source that they believe the deaths were caused by a chain reaction. After the first worker entered the hole and collapsed, the second went in to rescue him and also collapsed, followed by the third. It’s believed that the a combination of methane and hydrogen sulfide gasses, as well as low levels of oxygen is what caused them to collapse.
Back in 2015, OSHA released a new standard for confined spaces in construction, which include all areas that have limited access points and possible air quality hazards. There were several regulations that OSHA added that could have possibly prevented these deaths from happening. According to the rule, each confined space should be inspected by a competent person and provide a continuous monitoring of the airspace. Each person entering the confined space should have also been given testing and monitoring equipment, ventilation equipment, communication equipment, PPE, proper lighting, and emergency equipment, among several other items.
It’s not clear exactly what procedures or equipment the employer provided the three victims, but take this story as a clear example of how not being prepared can cause a tragedy. According to NIOSH, more than 60% of confined space deaths are would-be rescuers, meaning those who are trying to save a victim. That sad statistic was proven accurate by last week’s incident.
Last November, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced felonious assault charges against a contractor’s superintendent and a manufacturer’s branch manager after two men suffered horrific injuries on a New York jobsite. Last week, OSHA formally announced citations against the St. Louis, Missouri based contractor.
After an uptick in construction industry fatalities in 2016, a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that both the amount of construction worker deaths and the rate of fatality dropped in 2017.
At the National Safety Council Congress & Expo on October 23, 2018, OSHA’s deputy director of Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Patrick Kapust, announced their 10 most frequesntly cited safety violations for their fiscal year 2018.
On March 15, 2018, 6 people were killed and 8 others were injured when an under construction pedestrian bridge collapsed in Florida. Several months later, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released their preliminary report while conducting an official investigation. The NTSB later issued an “Investigative Update” to their preliminary report in August. In Mid-November, the NTSB released a 2nd investigative update, narrowing their root cause theories.
The City of New York is getting serious about construction regulation and using the full extent of the law to punish those who have acted negligently on the jobsite. Last year, Mayor Bill De Blasio issued a new law requiring all construction workers to undergo, at minimum, 40 hours of safety training. In 2016, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. successfully convicted a construction foreman of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment after a laborer was killed in a trench collapse that he was overseeing. Earlier this month, DA Vance announced assault charges against a superintendent and branch manager after 2 men suffer horrific injuries on their jobsite.
The long delayed rule for crane operator certification has new life as OSHA has issued yet another final rule, after making alterations and clarifications. OSHA originally planned to require all crane operators to obtain certifications in 2010, but it has been delayed several times since then. A different final rule was proposed in 2017, but it was announced in May of 2018 that the administration intended to alter the rule.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced a recall of 3 different drills manufactured by Black & Decker due to safety concerns.
Just over a year ago, in September of 2017, Hurricane Irma blew through Miami, Florida, bringing extremely high speed wind with it. The wind caused 3 cranes to collapse in southern Florida, 2 in downtown Miami and 1 more in Ft. Lauderdale. Interesting video of the dismantling of one of the failed cranes was shared on Youtube.
In September of 2017, OSHA’s new standard on exposure to respirable crystalline silica went into effect in the construction industry. The rule lowered the allowable exposure to the harmful substance to 50 micrograms per cubic meter, a measurement that we’re all familiar with [/sarcasm]. After a full year of enforcement, OSHA is considering making a change to the rule.