Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

By all accounts Junethea Centeno was a popular girl with many friends and an active Facebook page. Sadly, the 18-year-old Palomar College student died last Tuesday after she lost control of her Honda Civic on northbound I-15 in Escondido and struck a concrete barrier where some roadwork was being performed. A memorial Facebook page has been set up with an astounding 25,000 followers.

Junethea’s father, who was returning from Japan where he is stationed with the Navy at the time of his daughter’s death, believes the death may have preventable. He told the North County Times that he believes the way the temporary concrete barrier was set up created a dangerous condition on the roadway, and that had it been set up correctly, Junethea’s collision may have been far less severe. Her boyfriend visited the scene shortly after the crash told 10 News, “There were no orange drums, no cones, no reflectors, nothing like that.”

Apparently CalTrans was contacted, but it has refused to comment on the condition of the road. In cases like this, the legal question is whether the construction zone and concrete barrier were set up in a way that created an unreasonably dangerous condition. If the answer to that question is Yes, then a lawsuit could be brought against CalTrans, and probably the construction crew doing the work, assuming it was being done by a separate third-party contractor under contract with CalTrans. Before a lawsuit can be filed, however, a governmental claim must first be made against CalTrans, and that claim must be denied.

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The North County Times is out today with an article on highway work zone safety. The good news is that the number of accidents and injuries is down. The bad news is that doing road work is still a very dangerous way to earn a living.

Nick Nusser is a contractor from Atkinson Construction, and is one of many workers who make their living working on the side of the highway while cars race by. His “office is the freeway,” which, he says, makes him keep his “head on a swivel.” The only thing keeping him safe from careless drivers is a low concrete divider and an orange vest.

Despite the obvious dangers of working on the highway – which have no doubt increased with the advent of texting – the number of car accidents in work zones has actually declined over the last decade. The number of crashes statewide has declined from 6,901 in 1998 to 4,374 in 2008. Injuries and fatalities have also declined dramatically.

While deaths in the workplace have declined over the last 20 years, the number of Hispanic workers who are killed on the job has increased. According to federal statistics, deaths of Hispanic workers increased from 533 in 1992 to 937 in 2007, an increase of 76%.

“I am particularly concerned about our Hispanic workforce, as Latinos often work low-wage jobs and are more susceptible to injuries in the workplace than other workers,” U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told USA TODAY. “There can be no excuses for negligence in protecting workers, not even a language barrier.”

According to records, Hispanic workers have fallen off roofs and scaffolding, been crushed under machinery and run over by trucks, according to workers’ rights advocates. One reason for the increase is the number of Hispanics in the workforce. In the last decade, Hispanics have increased their percentage in the workforce from 10% to 14%. Another is that many Hispanic workers are without legal documentation to be in the U.S. and are less likely to join a union, which helps protect workers.

An electrical water heater exploded yesterday in a Rancho Santa Margarita plastics factory, killing two employees and injuring two others. The men killed, Isidro Echeverria of Oceanside and Jose Jimenez of Garden Grove, were working the night shift at Solus Industrial Innovations when the blast occurred.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the explosion, which was so forceful it buckled walls and blew chunks of concrete into the air.

Attorney Randy Walton was involved in a very similar explosion case five years ago when a water heater exploded in a San Diego County factory and seriously injured two employees. A lawsuit was filed against the water heater manufacturer for designing and manufacturing a defective product, as well as against a propane distributor for its contribution to the accident.

Personal injury victims of the walkway collapse in San Diego on August 28th have filed the first lawsuit arising from the accident. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles on behalf of Tyrone and Tina Allen, despite the fact the couple lives in San Diego. The lawsuit names Paramount Scaffold Company of Carson, and Allgire General Contractors, of Carlsbad, as defendants.

According to reports, Mr. Allen suffered significant and paralyzing injuries in the accident, and remains hospitalized at Scripps Mercy in Hillcrest. A total of 16 people were injured in the incident, which was caught on tape (we’ve blogged about this previously, click here to see the video).

No doubt there will be more lawsuits filed as a result of this accident, and the cases may very well be consolidated into a single case in San Diego. We’ll keep updating this story.

An Oceanside construction worker suffered serious burn injuries yesterday when a can filled with gasoline exploded as he was attempting to fill the tank of a chainsaw. According to reports, the 35-year-old worker suffered severe burns over 50% of his legs and was taken by helicopter to UCSD Medical Center.

The incident occurred at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Mesa Drive where a construction crew is building a skate park. It appears that fumes from the chainsaw ignited fumes coming from the gas can. Cal-OSHA is investigating.

Safely filling a chainsaw usually requires using an approved container, depending the brand of the saw. Such a container would limit the amount of fumes or spillage that could occur when filling the tank, thus limiting the chance of ignition. That is a questions OSHA will no doubt answer.

Cal-OSHA is investigating what caused a wooden pedestrian walkway to collapse in downtown San Diego yesterday. The accident occurred during the lunch hour next to an apartment building under construction at 15th Street and Imperial Avenue, and injured 16 people.

According to witnesses, the walkway first began to sway, then gave way, sending people and debris falling to the ground where pedestrians scrambled. According to one witness, “the whole darn walkway fell down.”

The caused of the accident is currently under investigation. What is known is that the developer for the project is San Diego-based Affirmed Housing Group, and the general contractor for the site is Allgire General Contractors of Carlsbad. It is being reported that state records show that Allgire has had at least two accidents in the past four years. One incident resulted in a $16,000 citation for a serious violation of state safety law.

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