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Broward Authorities Investigate Deadly Port Accident

Officials with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office are searching for answers as to why a four-story scissor lift plummeted onto a concrete dock in Port Everglades, killing two county public works employees and causing a third to suffer critical injuries.

Our Broward injury lawyers understand the workers had been making some minor repairs to the passenger gangway when the equipment collapsed.

While the Occupational Safety & Health Administration might normally be tapped to look into a tragic work accident such as this, the agency does not have jurisdiction in this matter because, per federal law, it doesn’t have jurisdiction over accidents involving public employees.

This incident speaks to a greater trend, and that is the serious problem of injuries and fatalities to longshore workers and maritime employees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports these are among the most dangerous jobs in the country, with about 350 suffering critical injuries every year.

Longshore workers are responsible for loading and unloading cargo, repairing ships and building bridges. Harbor and dock workers most frequently suffer injuries relating to equipment and machine accidents, slips and falls and drownings.

Roughly a fifth of all shipyard deaths are the result of equipment failures. Other problems include slippery work environments, lack of protective gear for safety and a failure of employers to implement proper safety protocols.

In 2011, OSHA released a list of new standards regarding shipyard safety. those include things like minimum lighting levels, presence of trained first aid workers, motor vehicle safety and storage and handling of hazardous materials. Those rules became enforceable Aug. 2011.

Many of those who work in shipyards are covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, which provides compensation benefits to some 500,000 workers who suffer a disabling injury or employment-related disease that occurs in the waters off the U.S. or on adjoining ports.

Scissor lifts are most often used on construction sites, but they are also used in ship maintenance and repair. OSHA reports that the equipment can be dangerous if it’s used during bad weather or if it’s overloaded or the guard rails are removed or if the ground beneath it is unstable. The conditions on the day of the fatal Port Everglades accident were reportedly sunny and dry with low winds.

All workers on scissor lifts should be equipped with safety harnesses. The equipment shouldn’t be used at all if winds are above 28 miles per hour.

Scissor lifts have a wide variety of uses – from sporting events to musical concerts. This is the second fatal accident in Florida involving a scissor lift in the last year. Last summer, a construction worker at a West Palm Beach mall was killed after falling 20 feet to the concrete floor while removing asbestos.

According to OSHA, work-related falls are “100 percent preventable,” with proper training, safety equipment, supervision and safety protocol.

Call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Two killed, one critically injured during Port Everglades incident, March 16, 2013, By Linda Trischetta, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:
Florida Construction Accident Risks – Worker Safety Must Remain Focus, Jan. 14, 2013, Broward Injury Lawyer Blog

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