A succession of onsite deaths have plagued the global industry, pulling into question the occupational health and safety measures undertaken world-wide. The alarming factor in this week’s deaths is that they have affected both China and the US, two countries with completely different OH&S processes. It brings into question the standards upon which the industry is functioning, and if it is in fact time for some serious changes to current practices.
In the most recent of these tragic events, a 51 year old construction worker was killed after the building he was working on in the New York area of the Bronx, collapsed, leaving the man buried underneath almost six feet of rubble. The man, Muhamed Kebbeh, after being pulled from the rubble by a team of 50 fire fighters, was rushed to the Jacobi Medical Centre where he later died. Two other men were fortunately able to escape the fatal accident.
The catalyst for the building’s destruction has been put down to the collapse of twelve supporting pillars in the basement of the commercial building. The aged support beams were not able to withhold jackhammering efforts on the first floor and crumbled as the three workers cut the surrounding cement floor. The New York daily newspaper has reported that Stratford West LLC, the owner of the section of the building, has a controversial past, and was fined back in 2009 for running a pool hall on building’s second floor, upon which they defaulted. This will strongly bring into question the safety of the building due to its ill use, pushing liability into the hands of the company owner for the accident.
China has also seen a recent spate of alarming accidental deaths, with two recent events only adding to a growing list. The first accident, although not on site, has rocked the industry after a truck carrying construction workers tipped in China’s North West Gansu Province killing 23 and critically injuring five. Although an indication of faulty brakes and the country’s on road issues rather than a direct on site OH&S concern, the tragedy is a loss to the industry and a prime example that occupational health and safety needs to take a holistic approach, governing every process, onsite or off.
The second accident presents as a slightly more dramatic reality, as the nature of events are beginning to show an alarming trend in the country. That is the growing number of gas coalmine explosions overwhelming the Chinese industry, this latest incident in central China not only killed 28 of the 35 workers there, but added to an onsite trend that official statistics show took 2433 lives in 2010 alone.
The Australian industry, while progressive when it comes to OH&S, is not exempt from these tragic matters. Only recently construction company Australand Industrial Construction in Dandenong South was fined $35,000 over the workplace death of Langwarrin man John Parton due to WorkSafe negligence.
Construction is such a precarious and dangerous field at the best of times. The implementation of correct safety precautions is not an added bonus – it is mandatory. The global industry needs to be seriously looking into harsher penalties for those who disregard the safety of their workers as a fundamental protection of basic human rights.