Truthout: Fatal Construction Accident Shows Higher Risks Faced by Latino Workers

Monday morning, March 23, 2015, in Raleigh, North Carolina, was a mild and slightly overcast day. The first signs of spring were beginning to emerge after an uncharacteristically chilly winter for the capital of the Southern state. But the recent cold weather had hardly hampered the construction of several high-rise office and condo projects, unprecedented for the generally low-rise city.

The 12-story Charter Square was one such project, and on March 23, just before 11 am, workers were busy on its south wall, with two mast climbers attached to its all-glass surface. Mast climbers are a scaffolding device employing a thin, central steel column stuck to the side of a structure, along which a horizontal platform that ferries workers up and down, so that they can install the glass panels future occupants will gaze from when the building is finished. On this day, the mast climbers were to be dismantled, with the building scheduled for opening in May.

About halfway up, the mast suddenly peeled off the side of the building, sending José Erasmo Hernández, José Luis López Ramírez and Anderson Antones de Almeida to their deaths, and Elmer Guevara to the hospital in serious condition. The four men were working for a tangled web of contractors and subcontractors, and the Department of Labor’s representative on the scene said that contractors themselves inspect mast climbers, which are not specifically regulated by the state.

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