Cedar Rapids accident sheds light on worker safety - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids accident sheds light on worker safety

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

Every day in the U.S., it's estimated that 12 workers die on the job.  Another 3 million are seriously injured every year.  Companies do have strict safety standards to follow that are issued by the federal government.  But with each accident, those standards can be scrutinized.

There are still a lot of questions about why and how a worker fell from the new Federal Courthouse in downtown Cedar Rapids Tuesday.  Experts with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration went to the scene Wednesday to try to answer those questions.

Ryan Companies is managing the courthouse project, and they declined an interview.  But Ryan says there will be no way to determine if safety measures on-the-job need to be improved until the findings of OSHA's investigation are in.  And that investigation could take a few months.

OSHA says that generally speaking, companies are required to have guardrail systems in place for employees working above 6 feet.  And employees are also typically required to wear body harnesses. 

During its investigation, OSHA will work to determine if those federal guidelines were followed when the Cedar Rapids accident happened.  If safety laws were not followed, Ryan companies could face stiff fines.  And even if all safety protocol was followed, Ryan says it will continue to do everything possible to prevent future worker accidents.

If OSHA determines that any work-related accident or series of accidents point out flaws in current safety regulations, state OSHA leaders have to ask OSHA officials at the federal level for any changes to be made to existing laws.

The Cedar Rapids incident is the fourth worker death in eastern Iowa this year.  In March, 23-year-old Rochelle Perry was killed on the job while driving a tractor between John Deere plants in Waterloo.  She died after losing control of the tractor and hitting a utility pole.

A month before that, 33-year-old Lawrence "Junior" Brehm of Dubuque died.  The grounds employee was hit by another employee in the parking lot of the Dubuque School District's administration building.

And in January, 52-year-old Kevin Hammons of Washington, died in a construction accident in Iowa City.  Officials say a support beam fell on him while working on a flood mitigation project on the University of Iowa campus.

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