A Denver-area worker died last week after being buried alive under a 20-foot high pile of loose pinto beans. The pile apparently weighed several tons.
At this point, authorities are still unsure as to why the pile of pinto beans collapsed and how the warehouse worker ultimately became trapped underneath it. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident, along with safety inspectors from Kelly Bean Co., the company that operated the warehouse.
The man who was killed had worked at the warehouse for more than 12 years.
By all accounts, the man's attempted rescue was an enormous effort. Dozens of rescue workers arrived on the scene to help, as did several inmates from the local county jail. They dug through the beans for more than an hour. Unfortunately, by the time they reached the trapped worker, he had already died.
Colorado Worker Deaths
Colorado workers' compensation law provides benefits for the families of workers who are killed in on-the-job accidents.
Depending on the facts of the case, the worker's spouse and children may be entitled to workers' compensation death benefits. Spousal benefits are generally payable for life, unless the spouse remarries. Children can generally receive benefits until they reach age 18 (or age 21 if they are a full-time student). However, children over age 18 or 21 may be entitled to receive benefits if they can prove dependency.
Workers' compensation will also pay funeral and burial expenses for workers who are killed in a workplace accident or who die of a work-related injury or disease.
In some cases, families may also be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Although employers can generally not be sued for wrongful death, the family may have a cause of action if a third party - for example, an equipment manufacturer or a negligent driver - had some responsibility for causing the death.
Source: Reuters, "CO Man Buried Alive Under Tons of Pinto Beans," Andrew Chow, March 20, 2012.