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Workers at risk when parties cover up construction violations

Trust is a component in most employer-employee relationships, whether people realize it or not. When this trust is broken because one party has failed to be honest and forthcoming, the other party can suffer considerably.

This appears to be the very issue at the heart of a devastating construction accident that resulted in two fatalities.

Repeating history

According to reports, the recent accident occurred when a truck struck two workers on a job site, killing them. The victims were working for Atlantic Coast Utilities at the time, which had a troubling history of workplace safety violations.

However, the company owner did not disclose this lengthy history of citations and proposed penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on their permit applications.

Had the employer included information on the company’s problematic safety record, the city could have intervened and denied the permit application. Doing so might have stopped the company from continuing in their unsafe operation and the fatal accident.

Policies and implementation

Many cities, including New York City, have policies to prevent unsafe companies from securing work permits. They often require applicants to volunteer information about their history of safety and training.

While these policies are a step in the right direction to protecting workers, they are only effective if parties implement and enforce them. Therein lies the problem.

As was the case in this recent fatal accident, the employer was not the only party to make mistakes that jeopardized worker safety. It appears the city may have failed to investigate the company’s background, as well. Had they done so, they likely would have seen the extensive list of the applicant’s OSHA violations, which are publicly available.

Workers paying the price

Individual construction workers may have little or no insight into a company’s previous safety violations or the means through which it secured a work permit. Thus, they generally trust that the employer is compliant with the state and federal regulations.

Sadly, it may not be until after a catastrophic accident that parties learn of the problems that endangered workers. Under these circumstances, victims and their families can discuss their legal options with an attorney to seek the compensation they deserve and hold a negligent, reckless employer accountable.

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