A serious and deadly construction accident, which took place in downtown Boston on Saturday, February 7, 2009, reminds of the dangers associated with construction related work, and in particular work being performed at high elevations using lift equipment.
In the Saturday incident, a mobile lift toppled and fell into a vacant lot used by the Brattle Book Shop, where there were several patrons present. The falll killed a construction worker who was working on the lift and severly injured a second worker. It is reported that the crane was being used to inspects roofs on a Suffolk University Dormitory, which recently opened on West Street, several blocks from downtown crossing.
According to fire officials the two men involved in the accident were working for Reliable Roofing & Sheet Metal LLC of Framingham, Massachusetts. It appears that Suffolk had hired Tremco Inc. of Beachwood, Ohio, to inspect the roof of the building located at 10 West Street. Tremco then subcontracted with Reliable Roofing to do the work. The lift being used had been rented from Equipment 4 Rent, located in South Boston and West Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
This was the second fatal accident involving lift and staging equipment in downtown Boston in the last year. The prior accident took place at a building a few blocks away on Boylston Street being renovated by Emerson College, which killed another construction worker as well as the operator of a motor vehicle, which was passing on the street below.
In such accidents, a worker is barred from suing his employer by the Worker’s Compensation Act in Massachusetts. However, claims can be made against other “third parties” involved in the work, but only if it can be proved that their acts and/or omissions were a contributing the cause of the accident.
Questions inevitably arise after such an accident: did the equipment fail? Were the workers properly instructed in the use and operation of the equipment? Were there adequate safety measures in place to protect the workers? Was someone other than the employer of the injured workers who had these responsibilities? Did anyone interfere with the use and operation of the equipment?
In this particular accident, there will be a thorough investigation conducted to determine the cause of the accident, in the first instance, by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administation, who has initial jursidiction to determine if there was violation of any federal or state work or safety regulations.
However, it is significant and important for families or loved ones of those injured or killed in such accident, to understand that OSHA’s goals in usch an investigation do not always coincide with those of a claimant seeking monetary damages arising from the accident. For that reason, it is extremely important that victims in such accidents promptly retain counsel to oversee the investigation process, and in most instances, to retain the services of an independent professional investigator to review, analyze and where possible to assist in any official investigation.