A teenager helping his father work at a construction site was killed Jan. 11 when a trench unexpectedly collapsed around him, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Danilo Riccardi Sr. was part of a construction crew installing concrete culverts at a church, where he brought his three sons, ages 12 to 14, to help out. When he needed water to mix cement, he sent the eldest, Danilo Riccardi Jr., to get some water. But when the younger Riccardi went to the eight-to-ten-foot trench to scoop up some standing water (there was no running water at the site), the walls of the trench collapsed and buried him in a quicksand-like mud. A large rescue crew dug the teenager out but was unable to revive him.
As a spokesman for the Charlotte County sheriff's office said in the article, this situation is a tragedy. My heart goes out to the Riccardi family. But as a South Florida construction accident attorney, I wonder what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation will conclude about the accident. OSHA rules do not apply to non-employees, but construction companies still must take reasonable care not to harm non-employees that visit construction sites. That includes employees of other contractors, passers-by and visitors like the three teenagers. Of course, everyone is still responsible for taking reasonable care around dangerous situations.
Falls are the most common fatal accident at construction sites nationwide, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. (And construction work is consistently one of the deadliest job categories in the United States.) For that reason, OSHA safety rules require that employers provide fall protection (such as a guardrail or a net) in any situation with a potential fall of six feet or greater, as well as a fall of any height into dangerous equipment. There are many similar safety regulations addressing other hazards, and employers may also be required to train employees on good safety practices.
When employers fail to meet these basic legal duties, workers and others can be killed in a Florida construction accident. And when that happens, victims' families have the right to sue the construction companies responsible, unless workers' compensation payments are available. In a Florida wrongful death lawsuit, families can recover medical costs, funeral bills, lost income and other costs related to the accident, as well as compensation for the sudden and irrevocable loss of the loved one's care, companionship and love. If you have lost someone to carelessness and you are considering pursuing a claim, Cohn, Smith & Cohn can help. To set up a free consultation with our attorneys, please contact us today.