A construction worker at a project on the University of Oklahoma campus died on the job last Monday, September 9, although university officials and police have so far been very quiet about the identity of the construction worker, and the exact cause of the accident that caused the death. All anyone in an official capacity would confirm is that a construction worker had died. And that confirmation didn’t come until September 12.
The worker was employed by Oklahoma City-based Lippert Brothers Construction, which is the contractor on the project on OU’s Research Campus. According to a witness who claims he called 911, the construction worker was apparently working on some wooden boards, which he described as having been placed on a sawhorse. He was described as carrying two long boards. As he was walking, the wood he was walking on slid, causing the worker to fall backward, off of the scaffolding. On the way down, the worker apparently hit several steel beams. The witness also expressed surprise that the worker wasn’t equipped with any sort of fall protection, such as a safety harness.
The witness immediately called 911, and emergency responders arrived at the site within minutes, but the worker was dead by the time they arrived. The University says that state regulators and contractor Lippert Brothers Construction are conducting an investigation. There is no word yet as to whether or not the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is on the scene, but there is little doubt they will get involved in this investigation. When they do, it could cost those responsible, since OSHA is in the midst of crackdown on companies that overlook falls as a major risk factor in the construction industry.
Falls happen. But there is no excuse for a construction worker toiling at a height of more than six feet to be working in an area where he or she could fall without fall protection. Investigators should also question why workers were allowed to work at a significant height while walking on a makeshift “scaffold” consisting of a couple of boards and a sawhorse.