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Elevator worker crushed to death; family holds resort responsible

Chicagoans who work in areas where there is the potential for danger have the right to assume that proper safety precautions have been taken by the appropriate people. Sadly, that assumption is not always an accurate one, and tragic consequences can result. Last April, a Florida man who was cleaning an elevator shaft at the TradeWinds Island Resort in St. Pete Beach was killed when the elevator car fell multiple floors and crushed him where he was working at the bottom of the shaft removing water and oil.

The attorney who is representing the 45-year-old man's family in the wrongful death lawsuit says that the fatal accident was completely preventable. The elevator should have been turned off before the man began working in it. However, according to the fire department and federal investigators, this was not done.

The family's suit is against the hotel. They contend that the company that services the elevator told a TradeWinds employee to make arrangements with them to secure the elevator before anyone began working on it, but that was not done. The company for which the victim worked, SWS Environment, was a subcontractor for the elevator service company. The victim leaves behind two teenage sons. His family is requesting "damages in excess of $15,000."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, however, found both SWS Environment and TradeWinds responsible for failing to follow proper safety procedures. These include doing a "lockout/tagout," which turns off the elevator's power. OSHA has recommended that both companies be fined.

The family's attorney says that their main concern is that the unnecessary tragedy that befell their loved one does not happen to another worker. That is a sentiment heard from many Illinois families who file lawsuits for work-related deaths. It's not just about recovering money to help make up for a lost income and handle burial costs and other expenses, although those are important. These civil suits also help make everyone aware that safety processes are in place for a reason, and being lax about even one can have disastrous consequences.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Family of man killed in elevator accident sues TradeWinds resort" Kameel Stanley, Jan. 07, 2014

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