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Roadway work zones are inherently hazardous, both for the vehicles that drive through them, and for the workers who are doing the construction. It’s up to the construction companies to make sure that these areas are as safe as possible, and to put up proper signage to alert motorists, so that everyone stays safe while the work is being done.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recently determined that one Philadelphia plumbing company did not live up to their responsibilities to keep their workers safe while repairing an underground leak on Philadelphia’s 63rd Street. OSHA has fined the company $42,960 for 10 serious safety violations that it believes led to the death of a 27-year-old plumber.

Lack of Traffic-Control Program Results in Plumber’s Death

In mid-November, 2015, a plumber was working on the leak in the middle of the night. He was employed by Best Choice Plumbing, which was responsible for making sure that there was a proper work zone created in the area while the plumber made repairs.

Unfortunately, the company allegedly failed to do so. As a result, a driver did not see the plumber working in the middle of the street. The motorist drove into the plumber, hitting and killing him.

OSHA conducted an investigation, and determined that the company was responsible for 10 serious safety violations. According to OSHA’s report on the incident, the company failed to:

  • Develop and implement a traffic control program to control traffic hazards.
  • Ensure that a competent person actually implemented that program.
  • Instruct employees on controlling hazards in an active roadway.
  • Provide advanced warnings to drivers.
  • Designate flagmen to control traffic.

OSHA went on to explain that had the company provided a proper traffic-control plan, including signs, cones, barrels, and barriers, the plumber’s death could have been prevented. OSHA added that drivers, workers, and pedestrians “must be able to see and understand proper routes.”

The company has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations to either comply with the penalties, request a conference with OSHA, or contest the findings.

Statistics Show Workers Often Hit By Vehicles in Fatal Accidents

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that between 2007 and 2012, fatalities in construction and maintenance work zones averaged 669 per year. It noted that between 2003 and 2013, Texas had the most worker deaths in work zones, followed in order by Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and Tennessee.

In 69 percent of these cases, a pedestrian worker was hit by a vehicle. So-called “private sector construction,” including heavy/civil engineering construction, accounted for 60 percent of worker fatal injuries in work zones.

In these cases, the workers’ families may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In such cases, plaintiffs argue that the worker died because of the defendant’s negligence, and that the defendant should compensate the close family members for their losses.

In states where workers’ compensation rules apply, it may be difficult for families to recover damages in court. In some states, however, these rules do not apply. Families should consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer for more information.

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