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Wastewater project claims life of worker in accident on the job

Following damage done by flooding in December of 2010, a replacement wastewater system is being installed in Victorville. This worksite was the scene of a recent fatality in which a 38-year-old worker lost his life in an accident on the job. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health said an investigation is underway.

A spokesman for the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority said the connection of two tunnels had just been completed when a winch was required to remove a piece of tunneling equipment. He said the winch malfunctioned while the operator was on it. A winch pulls out heavy equipment and is under enormous tension, and if it somehow detaches, the machine will propel in the opposite direction because of the sudden release of tension.

In this case, the winch propelled toward the entrance of the tunnel, causing the death of the operator who was on it. The worker who lost his life in this accident was reportedly from another state, and he was employed by a subcontractor. The county coroner, District Attorney, and Cal/OSHA are all involved in the accident investigation. This will likely determine whether there were safety violations by the employer or whether the malfunction of the winch was the result of a manufacturer's fault.

When a worker is killed in an accident on the job, the surviving family members are entitled to pursue workers' compensation, but they may not file a lawsuit against the employer. If, however, the death was caused by malfunctioning equipment, and there is evidence of negligence on the part of the manufacturer, a third-party claim of wrongful death may be filed against the manufacturer. Such a claim can be filed in addition to a workers' compensation claim. An experienced California workers' compensation attorney will be able to determine whether a family has a viable third-party claim. Workers' compensation benefits cover only end-of-life expenses and a percentage of lost income, whereas other documented financial losses may be claimed in a civil lawsuit.

Source: vvdailypress.com, "Worker killed at tunneling site", June 24, 2015

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