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Veteran construction worker killed at jobsite mourned by friends

Officials are still trying to determine why a construction worker fell to his death at a construction jobsite in Washington, Connecticut last month. The 42 year-old victim was on a scaffold hanging sheetrock when he fell about 30 feet. Horrified co-workers tried to revive him for 25 minutes but he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The Connecticut Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating but will probably not issue a report until later this month. Officials say they are awaiting results of an autopsy and toxicology tests to determine the official cause of the man's death. Friends say the victim had been working construction since he was 14 years old.

Safety experts say that falls and scaffolding accidents are the most common cause of injuries and fatalities at construction sites. They are part of what are known as the "Fatal Four," the riskiest one-the-job incidents. Older workers are more likely to be fatally injured but just why that is, experts are not sure. It may be due to overconfidence or bad habits, or a loss of strength and coordination. Workplace deaths are going up in Connecticut. In 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, 49 people were killed on the job.

Even if employers are found liable for injuries or death, fines can be as little as $100 and typically only a few thousand dollars. Survivors have to rely on civil lawsuits to compensate them for the loss of their loved one. Federal safety inspectors are stretched so thin that they only get to about 41,000 of more than eight million job sites a year. State and local inspectors are equally short-handed, which means that many safety violations go unnoticed and uncorrected until a worker is seriously hurt or dies on the job.

Source: Stanford Advocate, "Work accident victim loved softball," Libor Jany, Aug. 31, 2012

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