Mural painting has become increasingly popular in Miami, even beyond the Wynwood Walls district. But on Oct. 24, the art community realized just how vulnerable they might be in engaging in the practice. That’s when a 32-year-old artist, who was helping to sketch out a 25,000-square foot mural on the facade of a luxury apartment complex at the Hyde Resort & Residences, fell to his death when a gust of wind destabilized his platform. His harness failed to catch him. Two other artists who had been on the platform survived.
His death sent shock waves throughout the community. Yes, people are injured and even die on job sites almost every day in this country. This is especially true on construction sites, which are too often riddled with occupational hazards. But art? Dangerous? It’s these kinds of incidents that remind us we are all vulnerable and workplace safety has to be exercised in every situation. Every worker deserves to go home when their job is done.
Beyond that, it has raised questions about the safety practices of the general contractor on this specific site. A sizable firm based in Massachusetts, the company has reportedly been cited by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration 27 times just since 2006. At least one worker on a South Florida construction site run by this firm has died and several others were seriously injured.
Personal injury lawyers in Miami know that construction work is inherently dangerous, but numbers like this beg the question of whether this firm may be failing to do something or doing certain work the wrong way such that we are starting to see a pattern.
The executive vice president of the company’s Florida branch, speaking to the Broward New Times, that these incidents were in no way interconnected or indicative of a greater problem at the firm. Further, he added the company’s experience modification rate (which is the insurance industry’s rating for the relative safety of a firm) is .79. This is approximately 20 percent higher than the national average, which is around 1.0.
Still, that may be of little consequence for the family of the decedent. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University who studied graphic design, Raymond Brown reportedly worked at both the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, as well as the Perez Art Museum in Miami. He also did a fair amount of side work on his own. He also engaged in a number of collaborative projects too, including sculptures, silk screens and murals.
He’s not the only artist to have been injured while working on such a project. One artist in Wynwood was struck by a police cruiser while painting a wall.
Those in the art community told reporters that artists knew that a lot of these projects were risky, but it’s often about more than just a paycheck for them. They believe in their art. But being passionate about your job doesn’t mean the person hiring you has the right to put you at undue risk. Appropriate safety precautions should be taken at every turn.
In a case like this, where an artist was not an employee but rather an independent contractor, workers’ compensation would not be available. In such situations, injured workers and their loved ones would not be bound by the exclusivity provisions of workers’ compensation law (that prohibit litigation against one’s employer) and would be free to file a personal injury/ wrongful death lawsuit.
If you have been injured on Miami construction site, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Artist Raymond Brown’s Death in Mural Accident Raises Questions About Construction Firm’s Safety Record, Nov. 10, 2016, By Brittany Shammas, Broward New Times
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Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding – Spoliation of Evidence in Construction Accident Lawsuit, Oct. 24, 2016, Miami Construction Accident Lawyer Blog