Two recent safety incidents drive home the seriousness of ignoring safety hazards.
The owner and a project manager for U.S. Sino Investment, Fremont, Calif., have been indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter after ignoring a stop-work order. Subsequently, an employee died in a trench cave-in.
Asphalt Specialists, Pontiac, Mich., have been ordered to pay nearly $1 million for wrongfully terminating a foreman and two truck drivers who had raised concerns about fatigued drivers.
These actions are right and just. The fired workers receive back pay damage settlements. But the family of the dead worker will never be able to replace their lost loved one. Families, friends and others associated with those upon whom justice is meted out are also affected. The damage to people extends far beyond those immediately involved in any incident.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspects job sites, cites unsafe practices, levies fines for same, and orders projects shut down. We complain about the oversight, but incidents like these overshadow the inconvenience. Construction workers or supervisors who ignore unsafe conditions need to acknowledge their responsibility for the safety of others.
Tower crane operators have the authority and responsibility to shut down a project if they believe wind speeds jeopardize safe lifts. That’s a highly visible accident that is prevented. Can we say the same for trench cave-ins? They are all too common, and news reports on the accident rarely travel beyond the region in which it occurs.
Construction Equipment has created a new LinkedIn group, Construction Equipment Safety, with three initial goals. One, we hope to highlight accidents involving construction equipment so the industry can learn how to avoid them. Two, we hope to create discussion around how equipment professionals can improve their organization’s safety. Finally, we want members of the group to post their own stories, solutions, and strategies.
Equipment operators and site supervisors must take seriously their responsibility to identify and prevent accidents. We salute the three men who stood in the gap for their coworkers endangered by fatigue truck drivers. We salute the countless equipment operators and workers who have averted trench cave-ins by speaking up.
And we are grateful for justice for those endangered or killed in incidents where the danger had been identified and ignored. There is no place for ignoring safety.