September 23, 2019 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Why Four Fatal Accidents During I-4 Ultimate Construction?

OSHA levies fines and citations against joint venture after another fatal accident

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On February 4, 2019, a 59-year-old construction worker, James Hardy Mills, was killed when a half-ton, 20-foot steel pipe fell, hitting the worker on his head. Mills was working on the $2.3 billion Florida I-4 Ultimate project, a 21-mile road makeover in Central Florida.

The Orange County Sheriff’s report states, “Deputies say James Hardy Mills was on the team loading the pipe onto a trailer at a site at Wymore Road and Riddle Drive near Winter Park. Mills got onto the trailer to roll the pipe off the front loader when it started to move,” the report said. “Mills tried to step off to get out of the way, but his foot got caught on the trailer and he fell backward. The pipe rolled off the trailer and hit Mills.”

See the Department of Labor statement regarding this occurrence. 

Mills was the fourth fatality since the I-4 construction began in 2015

As a worker for SGL Constructors, the victim’s death marks the fourth fatality since the 21-mile project began in 2015. SGL Constructors is a joint venture between Skanska USA, Granite Construction, and the Lane Construction Corp. The Orlando I-4 project is scheduled for completion in 2021.

The other three victims killed while working for SGL on the I-4 project prior to Mills’ death are:

  1. Marvin Franklin, 34, run over by a dump truck in a Maitland construction area, February 2016;
  2. Curtis Popkey, 59, hit by steel at an Altamonte Springs in December 2016; and
  3. Michael Tolman, 56, an SGL subcontractor, was killed when a rebar cage fell on him in March 2018.

In the case of Franklin’s death, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined SGL and its subcontractors were guilty of one serious violation, fining SGL $12,471, and Franklin’s family filed a lawsuit claiming negligence.

In the case of Mills’ death, OSHA is fining the joint venture $15,150 for his death, in addition to job site safety violations.

A few days after Mills’ death, three more workers were injured

We learn from the Orlando Sentinel that a mere four days after work resumed from being shut down for the observance and investigation into Mill’s death, three workers “employed by SGL Constructors, were injured while pouring cement. The workers fell 15 feet from an elevated platform, reportedly after a section of formwork gave way.”

OSHA’s “Fatal Four” hazards are a perennial focus of the agency. Statistics don’t lie. That is never truer than in these cases.

From “Construction’s ‘Fatal Four‘” on OSHA’s website, we learn, “Out of 4,674 worker fatalities in private industry in the calendar year 2017, 971 or 20.7% were in construction — that is, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were “falls,” followed by “struck by object,” “electrocution,” and “caught-in/between.” These ‘Fatal Four’ were responsible for more than half (59.9%) of the construction worker deaths in 2017, BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] reports.

Underscoring the import of the “Fatal Four” is the OSHA statistic:

Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 582 workers’ lives in America every year.

While the Mills’ case inspection has not been indicated as closed, here is the OSHA inspection detail.

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Accidents, Human Performance
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