A 39 year-old construction contractor was killed the afternoon of Sunday, January 8, 2012, when he was thrown from the excavator he was operating and pinned between it and a building. Firefighters responded at 4:00 p.m. to a report that a man was wedged between his equipment and the wall of a building. The machine, a Bobcat excavator, apparently rolled onto him after he was somehow ejected from it. Rescuers used air bags to lift them machine off of him, a process that took almost twelve minutes. The man’s chest was crushed, and firefighters were unable to revive him. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
The man was the owner and sole full-time employee of a construction company. The Bridgeport Housing Authority hired a construction company to perform work at the site and believes they subcontracted the man’s company. A spokesperson for the housing authority said that they do not normally authorize construction work on weekends.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it will conduct a preliminary investigation to attempt to determine what caused the accident. This investigation will also determine whether OSHA has jurisdiction to look into the matter further. OSHA is a federal agency contained within the Department of Labor. Its general mission is to establish and enforce workplace safety standards. Construction sites often present complicated issues for OSHA regulators and anyone else interested in workplace safety, including personal injury attorneys, since they often involve multiple businesses and an intricate web of contractual relationships. Determining an individual worker’s employment relationship can be difficult, not to mention determining who has primary responsibility over a particular area or function at a site.
Construction accidents also present a complex set of legal issues, since so many types of accidents can occur. A person injured in a construction accident may be able to make a claim under several legal theories, provided a liable party can be identified. These may include ordinary negligence, premises liability, or products liability. Under ordinary negligence, an injured person must prove four elements: that the defendant owed the person a duty of care, that the defendant breached that duty, that the breach actually caused the injury, and that the person suffered measurable damages. On a construction site, workers owe a basic duty of care to one another to perform their job duties in a reasonably safe manner. A worker who does something unsafe that causes injury to another could be liable for that person’s damages.