Fort Lauderdale residents and businesses were given plenty of notice this week regarding the potential perils of Hurricane Irma. A week before projected landfall, we have been lectured repeatedly about the hazards associated with storm surge, heavy winds and flooding. Throughout South Florida, property owners are racing to shutter their windows, stock up on supplies and secure their properties in anticipation of the monster storm. Many construction sites in Ft Lauderdale, Hollywood and across Broward County went on "lockdown" several days before Irma hit, meaning workers were allowed on the site, but limited to securing or removing items that could be turned into projectiles by Irma's herculean winds. That was a massive undertaking, and many construction companies worked diligently to minimize the risk of injury.
Unfortunately, as is often the case before such storms when businesses are short on time and manpower, it is highly likely that some construction companies didn't do enough. Not only would this pose danger to the general public in the form of injuries from flying or falling debris, sites that aren't properly secured could resemble missile launchers during a storm, not only endangering the general public, but the workers who will return afterward.
ACCIDENTS DURING THE STORM
In a category 4 or 5 hurricane, virtually nothing is "hurricane proof." Construction cranes, for example, pose a massive injury threat to anyone inhabiting nearby buildings, as they are not able to be tied down or otherwise secured, leaving them at the mercy of the winds. While cranes are designed to remain upright in winds up to 145 mph, this has rarely been tested in a real-world setting. We caught a glimpse of it on live television in 2012, as Hurricane Sandy caused the collapse of a crane in midtown Manhattan. The accident was triggered by minimal hurricane-force winds which barely registered 85 m.p.h. With Irma hitting Florida as a Category 4, packing maximum sustained winds of 145 mph and gusts up to 170, New York's crane collapse has stoked fears of potential disaster for anyone riding out the storm near any of the dozens of cranes in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County and throughout the region.
Construction companies that fail to secure large objects like metal beams, scaffolding and wood all but ensure that they'll become projectiles during a major hurricane. Smaller objects; however, could pose an even bigger threat, as they can be hurled farther and faster. Even the tiniest of objects – like a nail – can become a dart in a split second. Materials of any size that are not properly secured on higher levels of a high-rise site could be thrown great distances at very high speeds.
Suffice to say, a whole lot of cleanup and preparation is critical to preventing accidents during the storm. If a construction company didn't do enough to prevent your injuries or the death of a loved one, retaining the services of a construction injury attorney greatly increases the chances of a favorable outcome in court. You or your family might be entitled to significant compensation if it can be proven that someone's negligence caused the accident.
WORKERS' INJURY RISK BEGINS AFTERWARD
Workers returning to a construction site after a hurricane could be at great risk if the company didn't properly secure the site before the storm. Unbeknownst to them, large items could have shifted, leading to partial structure collapses and falling debris. Risk of electric shock due to live wires is also increased, especially near standing water. Toxic chemicals that were not properly secured might have spilled or leaked, leading to dangerous exposure to the unsuspecting worker.
Like any employer in Florida, construction companies have an obligation to provide a safe work environment for their employees. After the storm, it is incumbent upon them to inspect, assess and secure the site again before their employees return. If they fail to do this and a worker is injured or killed as a result, they could be found liable in a court of law and ordered to pay damages to construction injury victims or their families.
If you suffered an injury on a site that you believe was related to lack of preparation for Hurricane Irma, it is imperative that you consult with a Fort Lauderdale construction accident lawyer immediately after the incident. With every passing day, evidence of the hazardous conditions that caused your injuries could disappear, as debris is removed and structures are fixed. This evidence often is critical to a successful judgment in court. All it takes is one call to get the ball rolling. Let a law firm get a jump-start on gathering evidence that will help you, while you focus on recovering.
Broward County construction accident attorney David S. Tupler, P.A. specializes in injury cases. Schedule a FREE consult at our Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale offices.