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Scaffolding Collapse in Houston Injures Six, Prompts Questions About Worker Safety

Six people are hurt and lawsuits are expected after a scaffolding collapse in downtown Houston.  The accident, high profile because of the location and the number of people hurt, has prompted questions about safety on such job sites as well as workers’ compensation coverage.

The facts are under investigation.  But this kind of accident highlights the fact that workers’ comp is absolutely critical for those who toil on projects all across Texas – one of the very few states where such coverage is optional.

KTRK television reports:

“A judge has granted a restraining order against companies connected with last week's scaffolding collapse.  An attorney for the most seriously injured victim filed the temporary restraining order, or TRO, this afternoon and it was granted.

“The attorney for Victor Rubalcava says he filed the TRO as part of an effort to preserve any records that could be crucial in potential lawsuits.  The petition requests Finger Companies and Triple J Masonry to retain all documents related to the collapse.  In addition, the order asks the construction site be preserved as is, so no further construction work can be done at the site until the hearing on November 2.”

An industry organization in Houston that’s been advocating for better safety training on jobsites, the Construction Career Collaborative (C3), weighed in this week.  C3’s Executive Director Chuck Gremillion said it is “important to point out that a cause of the accident has yet to be determined, and one should not draw conclusions prematurely.”

“However, C3, in its role as an advocate for the craft worker, would like to emphasize that worker safety is critical to a successful construction industry and its ability to attract people to a career in the craft trades, the ultimate goal of C3.  In fact, C3's three principles are Financial Health and Well Being of the Craft Worker, Safety Training, and Craft Training, and we must do all of these well.  Each time there is an accident on a construction project, we fall short,” Gremillion said.  “In order to encourage and foster a culture of safety within the industry, one of C3's requirements is OSHA safety training for all those on the job site.”

“Hopefully, the contractors involved in this incident will learn from it and take steps to prevent it from happening again,” he said.  “One of those steps could be for them to subscribe to C3 principles and become a C3 Accredited Employer.”

Photo courtesy Houston Chronicle