It’s no secret that construction is one of the most dangerous fields of work. Every year, far too many construction workers are injured or even killed in avoidable accidents. Below, we feature several of the most shocking videos of such incidents, along with insights into how these tragedies occurred and how similar catastrophes can be prevented.
Warning: Several of these videos are disturbing. Some show explosions and other deadly accidents, while others examine the shocking aftermath of such incidents.
Fire and Explosion at a Swiss Construction Site
A 2015 construction site in the Swiss city of Olten suffered a huge explosion, which sent locals running for safety. Mercifully, nobody was killed in the blaze. This video from The Telegraph captures the most shocking moments from the fire
The incident involved a building known as Aarepark that has since been completed. It all began with the sudden explosion of a gas cylinder, which sent a column of black smoke above the building. The fire quickly spread to a neighboring home. Residents were evacuated and 150 firefighters were able to get the fire under control within two hours. Still, residents count themselves lucky to be alive — this story could have easily ended in tragedy.
Experts attribute the fire to the use of flammable bitumen on the roof. As of April, 2018, legal proceedings against an allegedly negligent construction worker involved had yet to be resolved. Meanwhile, insurers are fighting for stricter regulations regarding the use of bitumen in construction projects. Ideally, new guidelines will require that construction sites be monitored more closely — and that more fire extinguishers are available in the event of an emergency. This effort has significant implications in the United States, especially as extensive global growth in the bitumen market is anticipated in coming years.
Steam Explosion at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center
In 2015, the County of Santa Clara released disturbing footage of a steam pipe explosion that occurred one year prior at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. The catastrophe occurred as employees activated a steam system for the North Utility Loop Project, which is intended to send steam and chilled water to the medical facility.
Captured on an employee’s cell phone, the video begins with alarming popping noises. The employees comment on the sounds and suggest that a worker still inside the underground vault “step out for a minute.” He doesn’t get the chance, however, as the pipe explodes and releases boiling hot steam, launching an employee out of a manhole.
Based on the severity of this cell phone footage, it seems obvious that a report should have been filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as typically, OSHA reports follow accidents that result in serious injury. Joel Ferreria amazingly survived the accident and even returned to work the same day, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t suffer to an extent warranting an OSHA report or personal injury compensation. He struggled to perform basic tasks following the accident and was told by a doctor that PTSD was probably to blame.
The biggest safety takeaway from this nearly tragic accident? Construction workers should evacuate immediately upon hearing alarming noises. Reports indicate that employees at the Santa Clara site were advised to continue working — and that the frightening sounds heard in the first few seconds of the video were ‘normal.’
Tape Measure Fall
In a tragic accident, a Summervale construction worker (who was not wearing a safety helmet at the time) was struck by a tape measure that randomly fell from another employee’s work belt. While this news report from CBS New York does not contain footage of the accident, it does offers a close glimpse at a construction site that employees and outsiders alike would otherwise have deemed safe. For this reason, use of protective equipment is critical at all times.
Argyle High School Building Collapse
Multiple surveillance videos captured the collapse of an activity center at Argyle High School, located a short drive north of Fort Worth. The collapse seemed to occur without warning. The incident killed construction worker Julio Perez Ledesma. It also resulted in the hospitalization of two workers, plus minor injuries for another employee. Multiple students saw the building go down, but thankfully, none were harmed in the incident.
Prior to the collapse, the crew had succeeded in putting up the building’s frame. The structure was intended as an indoor practice space for the school’s band and football team. It had been part of a $45 million bond package.
An ensuing OSHA investigation found that Warnick Metal Building Erectors and the Northstar Builders Group failed to maintain appropriate structural stability. Despite committing serious violations that led to one death and several injuries, each organization was required to pay a mere $7,000 fine.
Shockingly, this was not the first time Warnick was involved in a devastating accident. Eight years prior, the company was accused of completing faulty work on a project in Fort Worth. In the 2007 incident, a storm caused several sections of a concrete wall to collapse. Vetting is therefore critical for major construction projects, but still not a guarantee.
Big Blue Crane Collapse
This video may be nearly twenty years old, but it’s still a relevant example of negligence in the construction industry. One of the most heavily reported construction accidents of the last few decades, this tragedy occurred during the construction of Miller Park in Milwaukee. While lifting a 450-pound portion of the stadium’s retractable roof, the 567-foot Lampson Transi-Lift crane known as “Big Blue” unexpectedly collapsed. Debris from the collapsing crane hit a man basket carrying three employees, sending them plummeting hundreds of feet to their death.
The collapse was followed by finger-pointing on an epic scale. Mitsubishi blamed crane designer Lampson of negligence — and vice versa. According to Bob Habush (who represented the widows of the accident victims), the crane lifted the piece of roof at an excessive speed. Wind then pulled the crane over while causing parts to break off. Ultimately, a Milwaukee County jury found Mitsubishi 97 percent negligent, versus just 3 percent for Lampson.
Deadly accidents are far too common in the construction industry — and the problem is only getting worse. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a jump in construction fatalities from 856 to 1,034 in 2016.
From flammable materials to excessive operation speeds, a variety of hazards can lead to tragedy. In protecting our nation’s construction workers, there is no such thing as excessive caution or vigilance.