When someone loses their life due to a violent act of nature, it is tempting to think that it was an unavoidable accident, and that no one is at fault. For instance, we can’t prevent a tornado or a lightning strike. We can only recognize their danger and get out of the way.
But for a New Jersey construction worker who was killed by lightning last September, getting out of the way would have meant disobeying his employers and risking his job. Sadly, his obedience cost him his life. His widow recently filed a New Jersey wrongful death lawsuit against two construction companies who refused to let their employees stop working during dangerous weather.
The companies are also being sued by two other construction workers who were injured by the lightning strike but survived. All three men were working at the construction site of a new casino in Atlantic City.
According to news sources, the deceased victim was pouring concrete near an 800-foot tower crane. He was killed when the crane was struck by lightning. One of the surviving victims explained that they were forced to keep working, despite the inclement weather.
At a press conference, the injured worker said: “Instead of getting to safety, they offered us rain jackets. I was scared about the weather and told them I heard the forecast. They said get to work . . . We knew we had to get out of there, but it was too late.”
The deceased man’s widow said that her husband’s death was entirely preventable, and was caused by his employer’s decision to keep the crew working. She added: “Their decision robbed me of my husband and closest friend, robbed my children of a father who loved them passionately and robbed Bryan of his life.”
It is the grave responsibility of a construction foreman or any workplace supervisor to make decisions that protect worker health and safety. After a devastating and fatal workplace accident, it becomes clear what action should have been taken. But by then, it is already too late.