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Cal/OSHA Cites Orange County Construction Company for Safety Violations

Traffic Cones in a construction zoneA construction company with offices in Irvine is one of several companies cited for safety violations that state officials say led to the death of a worker when a bridge was demolished as part of a widening project on the 91 Freeway. According to a news report in the Orange County Register, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has fined the general contractor as well as a subcontractor hired to take down a railroad overpass near 14th Street in downtown Riverside. The man who was killed was working on the bridge.

Fatal Incident on Bridge Project

SEMA Construction that has a regional office in Irvine was fined $54,935 for four violations, three of them classified as “serious.” Subcontractor Hard Rock Equipment Rentals of Corona faces penalties of $50,850 that are linked to seven violations, six of them serious. The accident in question occurred on May 18 when a bridge section collapsed onto empty eastbound lanes. An employee of Hard Rock Equipment Rentals tethered to the structure by a safety harness was catapulted onto the pavement. The worker, Okesene Faasalele, 59, of Long Beach, died from injuries suffered.

Serious Safety Violations

Hard Rock apparently used a Caterpillar front-end loader for something it was not designed to do, to anchor a section of the bridge. The loader was carrying more weight than it could handle and got pulled in the direction of the bridge as the victim was torch cutting the last floor beam. The portion of the bridge connected to the loader fell 22 feet taking the victim with it.

Both companies have appealed the fines. Although the victim worked for the subcontractor, Cal/OSHA has maintained that the general contractor had an obligation to ensure safety for the entire project. Cal/OSHA cited SEMA for violations including failure for not having a contingency plan for an unplanned bridge collapse, failure to communicate the need for a fall protection plan with subcontractor supervisors, failure to include procedures for correcting unsafe work practices and for not identifying the hazard of cutting floor I-beams on the bridge.

Third Party Claim

When a worker is killed in an on-the-job accident, his family can seed workers’ compensation death benefits. However, it is a fact that workers’ compensation benefits in California are woefully inadequate when it comes to compensating a family for losing a primary or sole wage earner. In such cases, victims’ families may be able to file a third-party claim against a party other than the employer whose negligence may have caused or contributed to the fatal incident. An experienced Orange County personal injury attorney who has successfully handled third party claims will be able to help victims or their families better understand their legal rights and options.

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