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Date PostedJune 3, 2013

Worker Fatally Wounded in Construction Site Accident

A construction worker on a site in Chicago’s Northwestern University Campus in Evanston has died following an accident which involved him being struck by a beam which fell from six stories up.

The man was engaged in work on the site when the beam unexpectedly came plummeting down from six storeys high, before hitting him in the head and chest. The beam was apparently knocked loose by a construction crane on the site according to media reports in the City of Evanston.

The 57 year old worker was unfortunately pronounced dead soon after the incident at the hospital. This article on The Chicago Tribune’s Website explains more about the tragic accident:

Michael Kerr, 57, of the 2400 block of Hart Street in Dyer, Ind., was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. at NorthShore University Hospital in Evanston, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

An autopsy for Kerr is scheduled for Friday.

The accident happened at about 7:15 a.m. at the southeastern end of campus, at the site of the new school of music and communications building.

Evanston police Cmdr. Jay Parrott said the wooden beam was 16 feet long and weighed 70 pounds.

“A crane came in contact with the beam that was unsecured and fell and hit this guy,’’ Parrott said.  “It was knocked off.’’

No one else was injured.

Work was halted at the site after the accident and university spokesman Alan Cubbage said it was unclear when work would resume.
Source: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-05-16/news/chi-worker-dies-northwestern-construction-site-20130516_1_music-and-communications-building-jay-parrott-beam

Although authorities are currently investigating the incident which led to this tragedy, it teaches is a valuable lesson about caution when working on construction sites especially when there is the chance of being struck by falling objects.

The post went on to explain about the on-going investigations:

Scott Allen, a spokesman for the workplace safety agency, said OSHA investigators were on the scene earlier today.

“We’ve initiated interviews with some of the employees, the employer, potential witnesses, trying to determine what might have caused the fatality,” Allen said.

No preliminary findings have been released, and Allen said it could take up to six months to complete the probe, as is allowed by law.

“It could be a few months or it could take all of six months, depending on the complexities of the case,” said Allen. “When it’s a fatality, I would lean more to the longer time.”

Source: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-05-16/news/chi-worker-dies-northwestern-construction-site-20130516_1_music-and-communications-building-jay-parrott-beam

One of the major dangers of this type of hazard is that workers seldom have control of its occurrence. Workers are at the mercy of their co-workers to remain alert and safe on site. Contractors should attempt to eliminate the risk of this occurring as much as possible on a construction site. Blows to the head are the most common forms of injury sustained by workers who are hit by falling objects.

Employers should attempt to protect workers from this type of hazard. The first step in doing so is identifying the hazard and assessing the risk. Once the risk has been assessed, if elimination is not an option employers/contractors can determine how to minimise the risk from occurring.If the hazard cannot be completely eliminated, it must be separated from other workers by using barricades or hoarding, vertical sheeting or perimeter screening can be erected to close off the area where the risk exists and other workers.


Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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