The collapse of the newly constructed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University is a horrifying example of the unexpected failure of a massive structure.
Within 24 hours of the incident, the number of fatalities was still unclear. The bridge collapse not only posed danger to people in the immediate vicinity, but also to rescue workers and emergency responders who arrived on the scene.
Meeting OSHA standards
In accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must meet hazard-specific health and safety standards and provide employees with a work environment that is not likely to cause serious injury or death. This is not always easy in the construction world. The pedestrian bridge at FIU was meant to provide students with a safe walking route over the busy highway below. Instead, the bridge crashed onto the eight lanes of traffic, leveling several vehicles. Reportedly, two workers were on the bridge when it fell.
The Incident Command System
Catastrophic events are managed under an Incident Command System. A Structures Specialist associated with Urban Search and Rescue will evaluate the condition of the structure that responders will have to enter and determine how best to mitigate the risks to rescuers and medical personnel.
Early reports indicate that the construction contractor was using a new system to erect the bridge sections that was risky because the towers were not anchored during this phase. If that turns out to be true, it is major breach of the public trust and the obligation to the construction crews. Safety must be built in to every stage of building.
Dangers facing first responders
A personal injury attorney familiar with injuries caused at construction sites will tell you that potential danger is everywhere, despite compliance with OSHA regulations. The rescue teams summoned to the site of a construction disaster face a number of hazards, including structural instability; confined spaces; falling objects; exposure to energized electrical wires; possible explosions; smoke; dust; a variety of pathogens; and much more.
Help for victims and their rescuers
A devastating construction accident can occur anywhere. Fortunately, anyone injured in such an incident, especially one as serious as the FIU bridge collapse, can rely on an experienced advocate to handle the legal side of the issue and negotiate with insurance companies for a full and fair financial settlement to cover medical expenses, loss of wages and related costs.