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Contractors fined for work-related fatality

A contractor and a subcontractor have been assessed in excess of $100,000 in fines in connection with a May 2014 fatality. The general contractor on the project, a Colorado company, has been fined $54,935, and the subcontractor, a California company, has been fined $50,850. A 59-year-old man perished in the incident as he worked on a railroad bridge, which collapsed onto the freeway lanes below it.

Highway 91 was closed at the time, clearing the lanes for the work taking place above as a railroad crossing was slated to be removed. The work was part of a $232 million project aimed at improving the highway, and the removal of the overpass was in preparation for widening the area below. The decedent was the only individual to suffer injuries in the construction accident.

Reports indicate that the fines in this incident were attributed to safety violations. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health was responsible for investigating the incident and imposing fines. In cases involving serious workplace injuries, especially fatalities, OSHA typically investigates to determine the issues contributing to the incident. If safety violations are identified, fines are used to sanction a company. However, a worker's medical and job costs are typically covered through workers' compensation. If an individual perishes in a workplace accident, workers' compensation benefits are normally available to the surviving heirs of such an individual.

In a situation involving an injury due to unsafe conditions on a work site, it might be helpful to discuss workers' compensation benefits with an attorney. If it is determined that the accident was due to the negligence of a non-employer third party, it may be in some cases possible to file a personal injury claim in addition to filing for workers' compensation.

Source: The Fresno Bee, "Worker death leads to fines for construction firms", January 01, 2015

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