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Massachusetts: New book exposes story of dangerous workplaces

A book has just recently been published that reveals a story that many people, even some residents of Massachusetts -- where this tragic event took place -- are not aware. Most people understand that there are dangerous workplaces and environments in most career categories. One tragedy involving the Deer Island Outfall Tunnel, cost two workers their lives.

The fact that men were killed did not seem to engender much publicity, which may have been one reason the book was written. The story revolves around the construction of an undersea tunnel in Boston that was designed to alleviate the problem of pollution. The tunnel was conceived, designed and built by men who seemed intent on transferring responsibility and the inherent risk to others.

The tunnel took years and millions of dollars to complete. Pumps treated sewer waste miles offshore, where it is diluted into the larger ocean body. The work was all but completed, except for removing a secondary safety system that was implemented in the latter stages of planning. In order to remove these safety stoppers, a team of five undersea divers were used to accomplish the task in an airless and dark tunnel, hundreds of feet under water and with only one way in or out.

The divers that survived the accident reportedly did not see the danger of using untried and untested breathing equipment until after the loss of two of their team members. Later, a Massachusetts investigator declared that the loss of the men was not accidental, although no one was ever held criminally accountable for the deaths. Under traditional workers' compensation laws, the surviving family of the two divers may have qualified to receive death benefits, although they would typically be prevented from suing the employer for negligence. Since multiple third parties were involved in this incident, including equipment manufacturers, wrongful death claims against any third party deemed to have negligently contributed to the fatal accidents may have been appropriate. Though the article about the book did not address these legal issues, they commonly arise in the aftermath of fatal construction accidents involving dangerous workplaces.

Source: failuremag.com, "Trapped Under the Sea - Boston's Deer Island Outfall Tunnel tragedy", Jason Zasky, April 8, 2014

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