One has to wonder if a construction accident that happened Valentines Day on Hampton Island in Liberty County, South Carolina could have been prevented.
According to the Liberty County Sherriff's Office four men working for Sailer Stone Stucco of Bluffton, South Carolina were busy applying stucco to a chimney. Rather than a platform that was supported by scaffolding, or anchored from above the platform had been raised by a forklift.
The accident happened when the four workers had completed the task and the forklift operator proceeded to lower the platform to the ground. At about 1:30pm on February 14th, witnesses observed a 'popping sound,' according to reports, although the source of the sound was not determined. Nonetheless the forklift jerked for some as yet unknown reason and two of the four men were thrown to the ground.
One of the two men who fell in the construction accident was transported by ambulance to Memorial University Medical Center. The man's identity, or condition is not known.
The other worker thrown from the platform was pronounced dead at the scene. It was determined that the two men fell a distance of about 35 feet.
The identity of the dead man was not released. However, family members who submitted comments to the Savannah Morning News website indicated that the deceased man's name was Jay. He was married and left behind a wife and three daughters. Subsequent reports indicated the man was from Bluffton.
Such is the human side of construction accidents that are often treated in the press as mere statistics. 'Man Falls to His Death,' or 'Worker Loses His Hand in Horrific Construction Accident.' The reader cringes at the details, but that's not the half of it. These workers are all human beings, with families and feelings and futures all too often cut short by a construction accident.
The man who loses his hand will be facing months of rehabilitation, regardless of whether the appendage is recovered and successfully reattached. The hand will never be the same. Neither will the man's life, after the injured construction worker is forced to pursue another line of work where he doesn't have to use his hands.
The emotional trauma of a construction accident can dog someone for years. And for the worker who doesn't come home again, the emotional trauma for a partner and children can last a lifetime.
Mere statistics for us. A name in a newspaper. But to the injured worker and his family, it is so much more. It is life either compromised, or cut short—often by negligence.
What was the employer's safety record? Is it standard practice to raise and lower a platform with a forklift? Would the use of scaffolding prevent such a tragedy? Were the two men who fell wearing safety harnesses? If they were, why did the harnesses fail? If harnesses were not worn, then why not? Are safety harnesses required at that height?
A construction worker has a responsibility to his own health and safety in using safety equipment when working high off the ground. It is also the responsibility of an employer to provide the required safety equipment and to ensure compliance.
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The accident is still under investigation. The fact remains however that one 46-year-old husband and father is lost to his family in the most tragic of circumstances. Just another construction accident? Perhaps. There are hundreds every day around the US. However, the prevention of construction injury, together with the health and safety of the construction worker is often in the hands of the contractor with responsibility for the job site. As much risk as there is around a construction site, they can be made safe by properly mitigating all possible hazards. It's when this doesn't happen and tragedy strikes, that construction injury attorneys are contacted.