Man Struck by Beam on Construction Site

A tragic accident on a construction site in Chicago, United States is an example of why workers need to undergo general construction safety training. Freak accidents such as the one that occurred on the campus of a university in Chicago is a tragic reminder of the dangers of construction work and why safety needs to be a priority of everyone involved.

A man working at a construction site on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Chicago died after being struck by a beam which had fallen 6 stories down. The beam was apparently knocked loose by a construction crane before striking a worker, inducing fatal head and chest injuries. The wooden beam was 16 feet long and 70 pounds in weight, which contributed to the seriousness of the injuries, combined with the fact that the beam fell from six stories up.

The post below, from The Chicago Tribune’s website provides more information on the incident:

Michael Kerr, 57, of the 2400 block of Hart Street in Dyer, Ind., was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. at NorthShore University Hospital in Evanston, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

An autopsy for Kerr is scheduled for Friday.

The accident happened at about 7:15 a.m. at the southeastern end of campus, at the site of the new school of music and communications building.

Evanston police Cmdr. Jay Parrott said the wooden beam was 16 feet long and weighed 70 pounds.

“A crane came in contact with the beam that was unsecured and fell and hit this guy,’’ Parrott said.  “It was knocked off.’’

No one else was injured.

Work was halted at the site after the accident and university spokesman Alan Cubbage said it was unclear when work would resume.


The principal contractor was not available to comment on the incident and investigations by authorities are still ongoing, it is expected to take at least 6 months to wrap up.

This incident demonstrates the importance of securing heavy materials and equipment when they are being lifted. Failing to secure a crane’s load is a serious WHS offence and as this incident proves, it can result in deadly consequences.

Any worker or person operating in the vicinity of a crane operation may be injured or even killed if a load falls. Exclusion zones on construction sites are necessary when cranes are involved in order to protect workers from injury.

The process of isolating the hazard is vital to separating workers from the danger of the crane hazard.  An option may be to erect a physical barrier to prevent any part of the machine or the load being moved from encroaching on the exclusion zone and injuring someone outside of the zone.  A physical barrier should be put up and be capable of withstanding an impact from falling objects, loose materials or other plant or machinery.

Possible falling hazards are objects such as tools and materials, debris and other equipment that has the potential to fall from a workstation or platform or into a trench and potentially injure a worker or passer-by.

Both employers and employees have a responsibility to assess the risk of objects falling and injuring workers. Controls must be used to reduce these risks. Safety controls need to be in accordance with regulation standards.

The final measure in minimising injury from falling hazards is the use of personal protective wear. These are compulsory and involve wearing hardhats, safety boots etc. which can minimise the seriousness of the impact of the falling object but cannot prevent the hazard from occurring and so are only a last resort control measure.