Friday, September 22, 2006

Not Quite "Just Another Construction Death"

Construction worker Jeffrey Martin, age 23, was killed at a Philadelphia worksite on Wednesday when he fell six stories "through a steel cable barrier and down several floors to a garage area, where he was impaled by construction material."

Just another construction death? Not quite. Martin was employed by Fabi Construction, the same company that killed four workers and injured 21 when five stories of parking garage collapsed at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City in October 2003. The New York Times reported that the collapse
was caused by the faulty installation of concrete floors after changes were made to the design to speed the job and save money, according to engineers for the contractors and others who have studied the design plans and the debris.
OSHA fined the company $98,500, but did not press criminal charges, despite a wilfull citation. Fabi was unrepentent, calling the citation an "unproven allegation which in no way represents a determination of the actual cause" of the collapse. Nevertheless,
In March, a court ruling upholding citations against Fabi said the company ignored safety concerns and "failed to take sufficient seriousness to employee concerns about signs of distress" in a concrete slab, even though company officials "knew or should have known that reinforcing steel was not placed properly."
OSHA is concerned about the high number of construction deaths in the Philadelphia area over the past year, particularly from falls, according to OSHA spokesperson Kate Dugan:

In OSHA's Philadelphia District, which includes Delaware County, there have been 15 fatal construction accidents in the last 12 months, and about half have been the result of falls, which she said is extremely high.

Although comparisons with other cities were not immediately available, she said 1,224 construction workers died nationwide last year, and 39 percent were the result of falls.

"To have 15 fatalities is high, but to have half of them falls is extremely alarming," Dugan said. "Employers know they have to have fall protection for their workers."

Philadelphia area labor and health and safety activists are thinking the time may finally have come to start thinking more seriously about a criminal prosecution.

Unfortunately, for Jeffrey Martin it's a little too late.