Spartanburg Worker Fatal Fall Highlights Serious Safety Issue

Greenville News has reported a 55-year-old contract worker has died at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, days after a serious fall at a BMW manufacturing facility in Greer.ladder

Details of what happened – including the type of work the contractor was doing, the circumstances surrounding the accident and even the height from which he fell – were not immediately revealed by authorities. In fact, even the manner and cause of death were not disclosed, pending further investigation from the coroner.

What we do know is this: Falls are the No. 1 cause of death in the construction industry, and they are also a significant cause of injury and fatality at other work sites.

That’s according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and also the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Falls can be caused by something as simple as climbing a ladder to change a light bulb to some complex series of events that causes a construction worker to fall from 60 feet above the ground.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed fatal falls, slips and trips were up 10 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. Falls to the lower level rose by 9 percent, from 595 in 2013 to 647 in 2014. Additionally, falls on the same level increased by a whopping 17 percent. In case where the height of the fall was known (and it wasn’t noted in many cases), the vast majority involved a height of less than 30 feet.

This South Carolina worker at the BMW plant had two other strikes against him: The fact that e was a contract worker and the fact that he was in the 55-and-older category.

Research shows contract workers are at even higher risk of serious injury and death, as compared to regular employees, and older workers are at increasing risk.

Preliminary BLSĀ figures for 2014 (the most recent numbers available) were that 797 people who died on-the-job that year were contract workers. That was not only 17 percent of the total number of workers killed, it was 6 percent higher than in 2013.

Further, work injuries for those ages 55-and-older spiked significantly – by 9 percent – in 2014, accounting for 1,621 worker deaths. That’s the highest annual total since the start of the fatality census in 1992.

In addition to the construction industry, others with the highest levels of non-fatal fall-related injuries were:

  • Health Services
  • Wholesale
  • Retail
  • Healthcare Support (i.e., building cleaning, maintenance, etc.)
  • Transportation

The circumstances of these incidents vary widely depending on the type of industry and the role of the employee. The CDC reports some common issues that crop up include:

  • Slippery surfaces
  • Cluttered surfaces
  • Unstable walking/ working surfaces
  • Unprotected edges
  • Floor holes and wall openings
  • Ladders positioned unsafely
  • Misused fall protection

Workers’ compensation and medical costs for occupational fall injuries tops $70 billion annually in the U.S.

The exact precautions that must be taken will depend on the type of industry and the known potential hazards. OSHA does require that all employers:

  • Provide reasonably safe working conditions, free of known hazards;
  • Maintain floors and work areas in a clean and – as much as possible – dry condition;
  • Provide required personal protection equipment at no cost to workers;
  • Train workers about job hazards in a language they understand.

If you have been injured or a loved one killed in South Carolina because of a work-injury, contact our offices today to learn more about how we can help. There may be options not only for workers’ compensation benefits, but also for third-party liability claims.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Worker Dies After Fall at BMW, Feb. 19, 2016, By Anna Lee, Greenville News

More Blog Entries:

State ex rel. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc. v. Indust. Comm’n – Permanent Total Disability Fight, Feb. 18, 2016, Spartanburg Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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