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Building collapse: A serious risk to construction workers

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration lists four of the biggest risks to construction workers, which it calls the "fatal four." Few people will feel surprised to learn that falls are the biggest risk, responsible for nearly 39 percent of construction in 2016. Getting struck by an object, such as falling materials or electrocutions, are also major risks.

The last member of the "fatal four" is the dreaded caught-between accident, responsible for 7.3 percent of construction fatalities. These incidents include when a worker gets pinned, trapped or crushed by machinery, as well as when a structure or part of a building falls on a worker. These incidents are very often fatal, and unlike the other three major causes of construction deaths, may be harder to predict and prevent.

Recent Brooklyn incident highlights this risk

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, an emergency call alerted authorities to a floor collapse at a building in East Flatbush. A worker ended up trapped in the basement when the floor collapsed, and it took emergency workers more than an hour to free the man.

Emergency workers transported him to a nearby hospital in serious condition. Details of how the floor collapse happened or what job the injured man performed were not publicly available immediately following the accident.

Unlike falls, which employers can reduce with harnesses, or electrocution, which employers can reduce with careful practices and constant communication about electricity on a work site, floor and structure collapses are harder to prevent. Whether a building is under construction or renovation, all it takes is the loss of a support in one area to put workers all over the space at risk of an injury.

Construction workers deserve protection from injury and death

There's no question that construction is a dangerous career. Like anyone who works for a living, construction workers deserve safe and reasonable working conditions. Many construction companies do everything in their power to reduce the risk of accidents and ensure their staff is fully trained for safety in all situations.

Some companies, however, happily cut corners when it comes to safety equipment, machinery maintenance, and employee training and education. As a result, their workers could end up at higher risk of serious injuries or deaths that were otherwise preventable.

The life of a worker should be worth more to an employer than speeding up a project or slightly increasing the profit margin. When employees end up hurt or killed in an accident caused by inadequate training, poorly maintained equipment or machinery, or a lack of safety equipment, employers must be held financially accountable. For those who would place profits above human life, the only incentive to change their procedures will be financial.

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