ORLANDO, FL – An ironworker on the $2.3 billion Interstate 4 Ultimate highway expansion project, died earlier this month after a rebar cage fell and struck him.
Michael Tolman, age 56, an employee of subcontractor Shelby Erectors, was working near one of the freeway ramps when the cage fell on him, according to Engineering News-Record.
Construction stopped along the entire 21-mile length of the project while law enforcement investigated the incident and while SGL Constructors – the private-public joint venture between Skanska USA, Granite Construction and Lane Construction – reviewed its safety procedures. Work resumed four days later, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
This is the third struck-by fatality on the I-4 project. In 2016, one worker was hit by a truck and another died after being struck by a piece of falling steel.
According to OSHA records, the agency cited SGL with a serious violation in relation to the first fatal incident with the truck and fined the joint venture $12,471 for exposing employees to struck-by hazards.
OSHA has prioritized the reduction of struck-by injuries and deaths by making this type of accident part of its Focus Four initiative. OSHA categorizes struck-by hazards as falling, flying, swinging and rolling, and offers common-sense advice as to how to avoid being injured, such as never positioning oneself between moving and stationary objects, staying alert to vehicles on the project site and wearing high-visibility clothing.
According to an August report from the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), struck-by incidents are on the rise. In fact, the center found that more than 800 U.S. construction workers died in struck-by incidents from 2011 to 2015, which is a rate higher than any other industry.
The CPWR said that 52% of deaths involved flying or falling objects and equipment. Nearly 60% of vehicle-related accidents happened in work zones, so highway maintenance workers had the highest rate of deadly struck-by incidents. Also, workers 65 years and older had an increased risk of being killed in a struck-by event.