On Monday, December 19, 2016, a horrific construction accident occurred in downtown San Antonio, Texas, leading to one worker’s death and another worker being critically injured. The tragic incident occurred at about 3:45 pm, according to police. A box with two workers inside was being lifted to a window of a building under construction at La Soya and College Street. As the box was being lifted, it tipped and then fell. The two workers fell out from a height of 60 feet and onto the street. The box they were in then struck one of the workers, according to Charles Hood, San Antonio Fire Department Chief. Gilbert Villanueva, age 53, died at the scene. The other construction worker, who was in critical condition, was transported to San Antonio Military Medical Center.
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries, and falls are the causes of the most construction fatalities every year. Employers have a responsibility to protect workers from falls, which are considered preventable accidents.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Fall Protection has been the number one OSHA violation in 2016, with a total of 6,929 violations issued in this particular category. Fall Protection rules list requirements for employers, to provide appropriate fall protection systems for employees. OSHA also says there were more than 208 more fall incidents in 2016 than last year, which is an alarming increase.
The San Antonio accident is under investigation, and it is expected that the company employing the deceased worker and the critically injured worker will be penalized by OSHA. Are these financial penalties really making enough of a meaningful impact? They don’t seem to be.