Family of man who fell to death building West Side church sues

OSHA fined Destiny Builders $38,556 for violations, including nearly $20,000 in fines for not reporting Francisco Aguilar's death.

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Pascal Sabino/Block Club Chicago

The family of a construction worker who was killed after falling two stories at a West Side church is suing the construction company, saying it failed to provide adequate safety measures to protect employees from dangerous work conditions.

Francisco Aguilar, 57, fell from scaffolding while working for Destiny Builders Construction Services on Nov. 22. He was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was in intensive care until he died Dec. 6.

Aguilar left behind a wife and six children.

"The family continues to mourn the loss of their father for something that should never have happened," said the family's attorney, Michael R. Grieco.

Grieco said Aguilar and other workers were not provided with harnesses, safety belts and railings that could have prevented his death.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules require construction companies to implement fall protection and safety training to keep workers safe anytime they will be standing higher than 6 feet from the ground.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, seeks more than $50,000 in restitution for the family. The company did not have workers' compensation insurance at the time of the accident, the lawsuit claims.

Grieco said the family is suing because they want Destiny Builders and any subcontractors responsible for Aguilar's death to be held accountable.

The litigation would include an investigation of others involved in the construction to determine who besides Destiny Builders might have failed to protect workers.

"A lot of construction companies feel that they can fly by night under the radar and get away with doing jobs for cheaper and with shortcuts that save costs but put their employees in danger," Grieco said.

The city shut down construction at the church after Aguilar's death when officials discovered Destiny Builders had never filed the building permits to begin construction at the site, according to the lawsuit and city records.

The law requires companies to report a serious injury or death at a workplace to OSHA within eight hours. Destiny Builders failed to notify OSHA of Aguilar's death for more than six months, Grieco said.

The choice not to report the incident to OSHA was "another way to try to get around or skirt liability," Grieco said.

After learning of the incident, OSHA opened an investigation that found the company had seriously violated worker protection laws by failing to provide a training program to employees exposed to fall hazards that would help workers recognize and minimize risks, according to agency records.

OSHA also cited Destiny Builders for not using guardrail systems, safety nets or harnesses that could have saved Aguilar's life, records show.

The agency fined Destiny Builders $38,556 for the violations, including nearly $20,000 in fines for not reporting Aguilar's death. Destiny Builders contested the citations, according to a U.S. Department of Labor spokesman.

Destiny Builders did not respond to requests to comment on the lawsuit.

"It is very difficult to explain the painful loss of our father, and our anger when we learned that his employer did not follow the necessary safety rules and requirements," Ariel Aguilar, Francisco Aguilar's son, said in a statement.

"There is no excuse for operating a construction company that way, and our family will pay the price forever."

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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