By: Brandon Stein, Esq.

As a South Florida lawyer that helps those injured from construction site accidents, it is shocking and appalling that the number of fatalities continue to rise one week after the parking garage collapse at Miami-Dade College West.  Seven days have passed since this horrific parking garage accident in Miami, and authorities are still clearing the rubble and pulling out bodies.  Just yesterday, a fourth body was found, but unable to be removed for several days due to the instability of the accident location.  Naturally, families of the victims are outraged because of the significant amount of time it has been taking authorities to clear the area and retrieve all victims from the remains of the once standing parking garage.  Still, the cause of this collapse remains a question and investigators and Miami lawyers are searching for answers.

However, this question may not need to be answered had certain tactics been in place to prevent a catastrophic accident such as this Miami parking garage collapse.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is in place to ensure compliance with safety standards while performing work-related and other dangerous activities.  Clearly, the construction of a multi-level parking garage for a local college in Miami constitutes a dangerous working condition requiring compliance with OSHA regulations.  Yet, intervention by OSHA could have prevented injury and saved the lives of those who fell victim to this accident in Miami – and perhaps could have even prevented the collapse.

While there are many examples of OSHA intervention in the past that prevented injury, one case that occurred back in April 2011 is eerily similar to the incident that occurred on October 10, 2012 in Miami.  The intervention investigation conducted by OSHA in 2011 involved workers performing construction within a 5? foot deep trench without the proper precautions in place to protect the employees from injury.

Upon arrival at the trench construction site, OSHA compliance officers noticed immediately that the construction workers were not protected from cave-ins.  Thus, the entire project was shut down and everyone was ordered off of the site until the OSHA investigation had been completed.  Shortly after all workers were removed from the construction area, the trench collapsed.  Thankfully, no one was hurt, but injuries, and possibly deaths, were prevented because of the preventative investigation and inspection conducted by OSHA.

At this point, it is too early to speculate whether early OSHA intervention could have prevented injury or the parking garage collapse.  However, here in South Florida, construction and repairs to facilities or roadways remains constant – thus requiring the intervention and assistance from OSHA, as well as lawyers to help those injured.  Although, what cannot be forgotten is that the construction company has the responsibility to ensure compliance with state and federal guidelines and standards.  Because when an accident such as the Miami-Dade College West parking garage collapse occurs, the first party that needs to answer questions regarding the accident is the construction company or entity charged with overseeing the safe completion of the project.

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