The failure of California construction firms to adhere to the state's safety regulations leads to numerous deaths and injuries among the state's workers. Cal/OSHA recently fined Bay Construction Co., located in Oakland, $141,075 for safety violations following a fatal accident in April of this year.
According to Cal/OSHA, the company was installing underground pumping equipment at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline. The work required excavation of a trench in sandy, unstable soil. The company installed a trench box to protect workers while they were working in the trench. A trench box is a steel box that is large enough to support both sides of a trench to prevent their collapse. When the company decided to remove the box, it attached hooks to the linear rails on which the box rested. The hooks were intended to help lift the box from the trench. Unfortunately, the company failed to check for workers in the trench, and it also used improper hooks to lift the rails. One of the hooks failed, and the trench box, which weighed more than two tons, fell on a worker who was still in the trench, killing him instantly.
After the accident, Cal/OSHA commenced an investigation. The agency found that the contractor had breach safety regulations by using the wrong type of hook and failing to check for the presence of workers in the trench. Cal/OSHA found nine separate violations and it assessed the company a total of $141,075 in fines.
The Cal/OSHA fines do not relate directly to the payment of workers' compensation benefits that may be due to the deceased worker's family, but the findings nevertheless show how workers' safety can be impaired by a sloppy employer. Also, the report of the accident does not state whether any third party may have contributed to the accident, but the Cal/OSHA findings would likely support a third-party claim. The findings may also support a claim that the fatal accident was work-related.