Last month, the first serious accident and injury occurred at the construction site of the new $1.3 billion San Francisco 49ers football stadium. The site was shut down after an early morning accident involving an elevator mechanic turned fatal. How did this happen? Let’s take a closer look at the tragic workplace accident.
The new San Francisco stadium broke ground last April and construction has been going at a steady pace ever since. On the day of the fatal accident, the workers began tending to their duties just as they normally would and the site conditions appeared to be normal, according to a preliminary report issued by workplace safety watchdog, California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA).
Just one hour after sunrise, Donald White, a veteran elevator mechanic employed by Schindler Elevator, was apparently standing on a ladder at the bottom of one of the stadium elevator shafts. While perched on the ladder, Mr. White was suddenly struck by a counterweight, killing him instantly. The elevator shaft was not a temporary construction elevator, but a permanent part of the new stadium.
The workplace accident was officially reported at approximately 6:50 a.m. by a supervisor on the ground floor of the stadium. The Santa Clara police, firefighters and Cal-OSHA were then contacted per accident protocol.
As news of the tragic workplace accident began to spread around the massive construction site and emergency personnel arrived on scene, supervisors chose to send home the remaining 1,000 workers. They later announced that the workers would be granted another day off of work in order to grieve the loss of their friend and co-worker.
Mr. White’s employer, Schindler Elevator, is based in Morristown, New Jersey. The company is a subcontractor for Turner-Devcon, which is the general contractor for the 49ers stadium project. Schindler has yet to comment on the tragic workplace accident. Initial reports state that Mr. White had been working on elevators of unique design, size and scale for more than 40 years and was considered to be an expert in his field.
At the time of the accident, the workers were not being made to work overtime hours or in a rush to make up for falling behind. In fact, the stadium is almost half-way complete and construction is running just a bit ahead of schedule. The San Francisco 49ers aimed to have the stadium completed by August 2014, in time for pre-season games.
A History of Workplace Violations
Schindler Elevator is no stranger to workplace accidents or injuries. In fact, the elevator company has been cited for violations by Cal-OSHA a total of seven times since 2008. In all, Schindler has been forced to pay fines that come up to nearly $200,000. In the most recent violation, the company was fined $18,000 due to an accident that occurred in Palo Alto. During 2008, an apprentice elevator mechanic who was working to install a new hydraulic system somehow slipped and fell 19 feet down inside an elevator shaft. After a thorough investigation was completed, Cal-OSHA was able to determine that the workplace accident could have been prevented if Schindler had only insured the worker was wearing the proper fall protection equipment. As a result of the accident, the mechanic suffered multiple broken bones, including several of his spinal vertebrae and his pelvis.
After decades of technological improvements in safety equipment and workplace policies, you might think that fatal workplace construction accidents should be a thing of the past…but you’d be wrong. Unfortunately, there are thousands of men and women who suffer life-altering and sometimes fatal work-related injuries on an annual basis. Most of these workplace accidents are due to the grave danger that construction workers must face each time they clock in.
If you or a loved one have been injured during a workplace accident, consider speaking with an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney. Contact the law office of Nelson C. Barry to learn more about your legal options and how to proceed with your claim. Your initial consultation and case evaluation are free.