FORT WORTH, Texas — A construction worker was killed in an apparent equipment accident in Fort Worth on Wednesday morning, police said.
The incident happened around 4:45 a.m. near Northeast Loop 820 and North Railhead Road in north Fort Worth, according to a police report.
Police officials said it was a "construction related accident" in which a worker got entangled with a piece of heavy equipment. The worker, who has not been identified, died at the scene.
Wednesday's incident is at least the fourth construction-related death in North Texas this month.
On March 3, 46-year-old Adrian Quintanilla Melgar died after electrocuting himself trimming trees in Southlake. The same day, 42-year-old Neny Alejandro died after a crane at an elementary school construction site fell on top of him. Then, on March 7, Omar Sandoval Rangel died after falling off a roof in the 3100 block of Northwest Centre Drive.
“These incidents are incidents that are preventable," Mike Lyons, a catastrophic injury and wrongful death attorney, said. “People are seriously injured or killed. By the minute, by the hour. It’s happening everywhere.”
Lyons believes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is under-resourced to be the only arm of investigations. It's investigating all four of the deaths.
“What we see day in and day out are contractors and sub-contractors who are placed in harms way, unsafe conditions, knowingly unsafe conditions, people who are getting killed, people who are getting maimed," he said.
OSHA data online is delayed, and it can take up to six month to complete an investigation. OSHA has not issued any citations in any of the four deaths. Lyons believes that's likely a significant undercount.
“There’s not enough skilled laborers to do the construction that is required," he said. "That puts pressure on using people that maybe don’t have the proper skillset. Maybe they’re not properly experienced enough or trained and that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Also this month, a worker had to be rescued after getting stuck in a drainage pipe he was working on and two other workers were hospitalized when a Stephenville church collapsed in January.
OSHA’s fines are a fraction of what companies can lose in civil courts, but Lyons said he’s worried state lawmakers are limiting business liability and making it tougher for working families to get compensation and for the industry to be changed. He points to Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code which limits the classes of people who can be held responsible for an injury on a commercial property and says insurance protections removed through new state laws have left the burden of payment for claims to the public.
“If they don’t have access to the courthouse, there’s no incentive to do things the right way and to make sure that it’s a safe workplace," he said. "If you want to control the conduct, there has to be some type of price to pay.”
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