Boston, MA (WorkersCompensation.com) – The deaths of two construction workers last month has prompted the Boston city council to look into safety at construction sites across the city, a move that could lead to new measures to protect workers and others located near job sites.
On March 3, the council voted to hold a hearing to discuss “existing safety procedures and precautions at construction sites and ways that the City can ensure the protection and well-being of our workers and residents.”
The council said it hoped to hear from the Boston Police, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, the city’s Inspectional Services Department and other relevant parties.
“Construction workers are a critical part of our workforce in the city, and it is imperative that these sites have the appropriate measures in place to ensure their health and safety,” Councilor Ed Flynn, who sponsored an order for a hearing to review current practices, said at the meeting.
The hearing comes after Jordan Romero, 27, and Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, died while working on an emergency sewer repair on High Street. First responders were called to the scene, where they found the bodies of the two men in a 20-foot deep hole.
Romero and Gutierrez were working for Atlantic Coast Utilities. According to the Boston Globe, a witness said they were knocked into the hole when the driver of a truck owned by the company backed up and hit them.
Further investigation by the Boston Globe found that Atlantic Coast Utilities had a “lengthy history” of workplace safety violations and legal battles. The report also found that the owner of Atlantic Coast Utilities had not disclosed his company’s workplace safety violations to the city before the incident. Doing so would have disqualified the company from getting the job.
Councilor Liz Breadon said the city must make sure it does not award contracts to companies with a history of safety violations in the future. Other councilmembers said that companies that fail to disclose their entire safety histories should face penalties.
“We should probably include an affidavit, by which they sign into the pains and penalties of perjury,” Councilor Michael Flaherty said. “And more importantly, in the event of a situation where someone with shady business practices comes in, and they lie or omit [details] of previous incidents, and then they get the contract and something happens, it should be a significant ban, arguably, possibly even a lifetime ban of doing business with the city.”
The hearing order listed several other construction site accidents in the city, including a construction worker being struck and killed by equipment in late 2019, an incident where a woman was “seriously injured” by falling construction debris in July 2019, an accident that injured a construction worker in 2018, and a 2016 crane accident that killed one worker in the Longwood Medical Area.
Just before the council met on March 3, one worker was killed and another was critically injured when a concrete stairwell collapsed in a Cambridge parking garage.
“These construction site tragedies are highly preventable and illustrate the importance of construction site safety, especially when cranes and machinery are set up in areas with dense pedestrian traffic or above streets with heavy traffic,” Breadon said.