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Construction Accident Claims a Life Along Pipeline

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Saint Omer, INHe went to work not knowing that he would never see his family again. That's what often happens in a construction accident and it happened to Randy Gardner in early April. Those in charge of the work site claim worker safety was not compromised, a position that will be either supported, or disproved in a workers compensation law investigation.

Construction SiteHowever for now, friends and family of Randy Gardner are still coming to terms with his death April 2nd after the man was crushed under the weight of a 3,000 pound slab of wood known as a construction mat and used in the pipeline industry in order to provide a stable platform over muddy terrain. The 16-foot-long, five-foot wide and 1-foot thick slab of wood was being moved and Gardner was on the ground assisting as the huge wood plank was hoisted into position.

According to a witness at the scene, the platform dislodged while in the air and fell on Gardner. EMS was on the scene within minutes and the victim was rushed to hospital, but he was pronounced dead.

Gardner was working on the Rockies Express East Pipeline, which is the longest natural gas pipeline ever constructed, spanning Wyoming all the way to the eastern border of Ohio. So far, according to officials there has been only one other death along the line since construction began. In November of 2006 a 52-year-old worker from Louisiana struck a pre-existing gas pipeline while digging a trench and he was killed in the ensuing explosion.

The victim, Bobby Ray Owens Jr. was working for Associated Pipe Line Contractors Inc. of Houston. Gardner was working for Sheehan Pipe Line Construction Co. out of Tulsa, Oklahoma when he was killed at the worksite located near Saint Omer, along County Road 580 East.

Reports indicate that Sheehan sprung into action to assist other workers in the close-knit pipeline community come to terms with the death of the "well-liked guy" from Baxter, Tennessee. A spokesperson reported that a team from Sheehan was dispatched from Tulsa to the staging area at Shelbyville to be with the workers and to assist investigators and regulators. It was noted that work shut down and workers were granted the chance to step away, only to return to the job site when they were ready to do so.

A spokesperson for Sheehan noted in a report that while the heavy construction industry is fraught with risk and poses a dangerous environment, Sheehan is conscious of the danger and has an exemplary safety record. Accidents, it was claimed, come in at one quarter the national average.

The company has the contract for assembling the section of pipeline that snakes through Johnson, Shelby and part of Decatur counties in Indiana. Leonard Pataki, a spokesperson for Sheehan, maintains that his employer holds safety at a high standard. "Sheehan is very, very proactive when it comes to safety," he said in comments published in the Greensburg Daily News. "Last year, we logged 6 million man hours and had 11 lost-time accidents."

However, not everyone appears to share Sheehan's view. One worker, who did not wish to be identified, was quoted in the Shelbyville News April 2nd as saying the job was being rushed in order to meet a mid-June completion deadline and that safety was "an afterthought." The unidentified worker also claimed that safety inspectors were absent from the job site.

Sheehan denies those charges.

As the investigation moves forward, the family of the victim will most certainly be interested in any alleged lapses in safety that may have contributed to the death of Randy Gardner. While worker safety is always a concern in any construction setting, a construction accident only heightens the need to review procedures and protocol. If cracks are found, workers compensation law would be assumed as the first, of perhaps many measures brought to bear by a construction accident attorney, to ensure justice and compensation for a victim's family.


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