Structural collapses can be one of the most frightening occurrences happening in the workplace, causing severe injuries and fatalities in many cases. You may have heard of terrifying and deadly building collapses in the news over the years, each one always bearing horror in its wake. One of the most famous building collapses in our U.S. history was not one of work-related horror but of terrorism known as the attacks on the World Trade Center, which was so severe that it completely damaged and destroyed more than a dozen buildings that were nearby. In 1973, Virginia saw one of the worst collapses known to history when one of the apartment buildings from the Skyline Plaza collapsed, leaving a huge cloud of dust and debris where it stood. The building was not due to open for a few more months and construction had not been completed at the time of the collapse.
The accident at Skyline Plaza was due to supporting columns being prematurely removed, which meant that cement could not bear the weight of an upper floor. A high amount of pressure was put onto the rest of the columns of the floor below it and the entire floor began to buckle. Once it slammed down, everything went downhill from there. Many buildings were not structured to maintain the huge increased load in full, which meant that the results were destined to be catastrophic. This collapse was not just a structural nightmare – it was also deadly. Yes, in 1973 when the Skyline Plaza collapsed, fourteen construction workers were killed and another 34 were injured severely. These are the stories that we hear too often when a building is built negligently or another type of catastrophic accident occurs. Structural collapses are a reality that is meant to be feared and workers protected.
Many companies and organizations have worked to ensure that structural collapses are prevented, also preventing injuries and deaths in construction workers. For instance, The International Association of Bridge, Structual, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers came up with a special commitment to pursue zero fatalities in a “Zero Fatality” campaign to help prevent fatalities and disabling injuries to workers throughout the United States. The campaign itself became an important way for workers to see something and say something to help recognize and avoid workplace hazards involving structural collapse.
Of course, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration also works hand-in-hand with employees and employers to ensure that safety is top priority at all times. When a structure collapses, rescue workers and emergency responders are the ones who dedicate their lives to entering these collapses to help aid in the disaster. As of recent times, terrorist activity to buildings has been one of the most trying issues that these workers have faced, in fears that the attacks could bring more death and agony. However, structural collapses from construction are still one of the most common reasons for these accidents that many believe to be preventable in many cases. To better understand how they can be prevented, one must also understand why they happen in the first place. When the internal load of a structure cannot bear its weight anymore, a building will collapse into itself and exterior walls may be pulled into the structure as it falls. In cases of weather such as an earthquake, the building will tend to explode outward instead. These scenarios are typically caused by a construction zone job.
There are many hazards that a rescue worker can come into contact with when a building collapses. For one, they may be exposed to pathogens from sanitary sewer system breaks. There may also be natural gas leaks leading to a toxic environment, structural instability, confined spaces, fire, sharp objects such as glass or debris, secondary collapse, and unfamiliar surroundings. This is why these terrible accidents are best prevented, where worker’s lives are not lost and rescue workers are not put at risk.
Building Collapses: One of the Most Dangerous Accidents
Structural collapses are known to be one of the most dangerous types of construction accidents occurring in the workplace. The truth is, these accidents do not just put workers at risk. In the event of a construction accident, there are many people and entities who may be nearby either working or walking. Some of those put most at-risk are workers inside the collapsed structure, workers on scaffolding, passerby who could be injured by falling debris, and inhabitants of buildings that neighbor the construction site.
There are three main types of structural collapses: those that occur during building, existing structural collapse, and secondary structure collapse. But now that you understand that there are three different types: Why do these accidents happen and how can this lead to prevention? Here are some of the main reasons for structural collapse:
- Design Flaw: There may be a flaw in the architect’s design that led to the collapse.
- Improper Safety Measures: Perhaps an employer did not take proper safety measures during construction or renovation. This could easily lead to a collapse.
- Too Much Weight: In some situations, too much weight could be placed in the structure. Most often, this is because equipment is placed inside the building during construction. When this occurs, there is a chance for structural collapse.
- Weak Foundation: Weak foundation can lead to a collapse. When a building has a proper foundation, there is a promise that the building’s weight can be supported and integrity protected.
- Poor Quality Materials: In other cases, there could be poor quality of building materials. If this is the case, it will degrade over time and pose a risk for collapse in the future.
Next, you may wonder who can be held liable in these rare but extremely devastating cases. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, some of the parties you may find liable are property owners, building owners, general contractors, construction managers, companies, and equipment manufacturers. If you wish to bring a lawsuit against a particular party for your injuries, note that there may be various parties involved in the structural collapse.
Construction accidents can be particularly devastating. Often times, they include large equipment, giant buildings, and many more hazards. This is why it is best to have an attorney on your side if you have been injured in a structural collapse. Call us today for more information on how to get started on your case.