Construction Worker Dies After Being Hit with Steel Beam 

August 15, 2018

A construction worker has died after he was hit by a temporary steel beam on his California job site on Friday, August 10, 2018. The worker, Patrick Ricketts, was on a job site at Twin Peaks Tunnel, when a steel beam fell down at around 5:30 p.m., striking and pinning him. Ricketts is one of too many construction workers to be harmed while on a California construction jobsite. Unfortunately, the company he worked for reportedly has a history of construction workplace violations, an all-too-common occurrence in the construction industry.

Victim Working with Stepson When Beam Hit Him

51-year-old Ricketts, of Williams, California, was a signal technician for Shimmick Construction, and had a stepson who was also on the jobsite when he was hit. Ricketts was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital, but he later died of his injuries. Forty workers who were also on the scene were evacuated immediately.

“I’m not sure if it [the steel beam] dropped or it just swung,” said Tony Owens, a family friend. “If it’s a steel beam, it’s probably a thousand pounds. It doesn’t have to hit you too hard in the head I don’t think but just how he was in the wrong place.”

Ricketts worked in construction for 15 years, but worked for Shimmick Construction for only a year. Up until then, he took jobs out of town, able to see his family only once every six weeks. He leaves behind his wife of 20 years, Bonnie Ricketts, and two adult step-children.

“He’s (the stepson) having a tough time,” said Owens. “Everybody is in shock. It’s just really devastating. It was just so unexpected.”

San Francisco’s mayor London Breed extended his condolences to the family in a statement.

“This is a tragic incident and I want to commend the Twin Peak Tunnel laborers who quickly sprang into action to help their colleague,” Breed said.

Contractor Reportedly Had History of Violations

An investigation by the San Francisco Examiner revealed reports of extensive workplace violations by Shimmick Construction, including violations linked to a 2016 construction death. According to the Examiner, when Shimmick Construction applied for the job at the Twin Peaks tunnel it failed to tell transit officials about those workplace violations, almost 50 in total over a 10-year period, and 16 from 2012 on.

On an SFMTA questionnaire that specifically asked if either Shimmick or its partner company had been cited for serious and willful violations by Cal/OSHA in the past 10 years, the companies answered “no.”

Six of Shimmick’s recent violations were linked to a 2016 incident in which a worker lost control of a forklift, was thrown from it and was crushed. Those violations are under appeal. But they aren’t the only ones Shimmick has faced. It, along with Obayashi Corp, faced fines of $197,373 in 2011 for serious violations when a worker punctured a natural gas line twice. Those are just some of the almost 50 violations the company has faced in 10 years.

According to Owens, when Bonnie Ricketts learned of her husband’s death she said she knew the job was on a time crunch.

Twin Peaks Tunnel Upgrades Ongoing

The Twin Peaks Tunnel is 100 years old and was undergoing a seismic retrofit when the beam fell. Officials stopped work so the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) and the San Francisco Police Department could investigate. Construction began on June 25 and involved shutting down the tunnel and two stations to allow crews to upgrade the tunnel’s tracks, walls, and drainage.

Construction Accident Lawyers

Construction workers put their lives on the line constantly in their career. They work around dangerous equipment, at significant heights, and with hazardous materials. Shockingly, too many employers and contractors fail to take worker safety seriously, putting construction workers at even greater risk of catastrophic injury. Even fines for hundreds of thousands of dollars don’t stop them from cutting corners and violating workplace regulations for the sake of speed or profit.

Too many workers are at risk of a fall, being struck by an object, electrocution, or being crushed between objects because their employers do not ensure their construction site is safe.

At Cutter Law, P.C., we’ve seen the damage that can be done when worker safety isn’t made a priority. We’ve helped countless families who have been devastated by a construction site accident and we are committed to obtaining justice for you. Our highly skilled attorneys have vast experience representing construction injury victims and their family members and have recovered millions of dollars for our clients. If you or someone you love has been harmed in a construction accident, we can help you protect your rights. Contact Cutter Law P.C., today to discuss your options.

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