Scranton workplace accident attorney Todd O'Malley today said two fatal workplace accidents in the region over the past several days serve as stark reminders that construction workers face hazards every day on the job.
"While construction workers need to be careful, employers have a responsibility to ensure workplace safety," said O'Malley, who commented on fatal workplace accidents in Danville and in Greenwood Township. "Construction work has consistently ranked among the most dangerous jobs."
One fatal scaffold accident occurred at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville on July 8. A day earlier, a man working in a trench next to a bridge in Columbia County died in an accident after an embankment collapsed.
O'Malley & Langan, a prominent workers' compensation law firm in Pennsylvania for the past 25 years, has handled fatal workplace accident cases. While both accidents are under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), O'Malley offered general comments about workplace safety in light of the fatalities.
Commenting on the Geisinger accident, O'Malley said fall-from-height accidents are preventable.
"Workers have to be trained to use the right equipment for a specific job," O'Malley said. "The employer must ensure that all workers are trained in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use of scaffolds and other equipment. Safety in the workplace should always be a top priority, especially when scaffolding is being used. When workers and employers understand the hazards of falls from scaffolds, accidents can be prevented. Lives can be saved."
According to news reports, the July 8 accident involved an employee of MPS Masonry Preservation Services Inc. of Berwick who was working on the exterior of the eighth floor of Geisinger's Foss Clinic. Work was underway to restore bricks on the building. According to newsitem.com, a three-man crew that included the victim was preparing to lower the scaffold around noon. Safety boards were removed to move the scaffold, and the worker was standing on plywood that may have snapped. The 48-year-old man fell about 100 feet from above the ground and died.
According to OSHA, fall-related injuries and fatalities occur in the construction injury more often than in any other occupation. They are the leading cause of death in construction. In 2013, 291 fatal falls to a lower level reported out of 828 fatal construction accidents.
Commenting on the bridge accident in Greenwood Township, O'Malley said a thorough investigation is critical. "It's not yet clear what caused the embankment to collapse, according to a WNEP report," O'Malley said. "It's extremely important to find out what went wrong and determine how this accident occurred. An investigation may provide answers so this type of tragedy does not happen again."
O'Malley said workers seriously injured in accidents and families who lose loved ones should consider speaking with an attorney to ensure their rights are fully protected. A fatality or a catastrophic injury on the job can be emotionally devastating and create significant long-term financial hardship, he said.