Fatal accident in Italy: worker’s death leads to strike

Photo: Terzo Valico

A fatal accident occurred on one of the construction sites of the Genoa Junction project in Italy, causing the death of a worker with another one suffering injuries. The tragedy led various Italian unions to announce a one-day strike at the site and to demand a meeting with the institutions and players involved.

The accident took place near Voltaggio, in Piedmont. According to the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, the two men were working on the tunnel coating when they got embraced by flames. These flames were likely caused by some natural methane leaking from the rocks being ignited by a spark.

Three unions, Feneal, Filca, and Fillea, proclaimed a strike at the Genoa Junction construction sites for the three 8-hour shifts following the accident. Sources from Feneal said that the majority of the workers took part in the strike, reaching 100 per cent attendance from the group working at the site of the accident.

An avoidable tragedy?

Investigations concerning the tragedy are still currently underway. One of the most accredited explanations is that the leak was caused by the tunnel caisson being removed. Both the Minister and Feneal said that all the safety checks were carried out before the start of the shift, and no issue was detected. Sources from Feneal said that many workers pointed out that rescues could have been faster.

Both workers, in fact, got out of the tunnel on their own legs despite the burns and wounds. However, the younger worker did not survive and passed away on the way to the hospital. The second worker was luckier, considering his wounds were not too critical, and he was discharged from the hospital after a few hours.

A Feneal spokesperson highlighted that the union had a meeting with the Prefect less than two weeks ago, claiming that there is a significant shortage of provincial inspectors. For the whole province of Alessandria, in fact, there are only two inspectors due to constant cuts in the sector.

A Very Italian Problem

Dying while on the job is, unfortunately, an old and persisting problem in Italy. As a spokesperson from Feleal underlined, “it’s as if every year a small town disappears”. Since 2013, in fact, these tragedies, also called “white deaths” have been increasing, with the exception of 2021. Well over 1,000 workers lose their lives almost every year in Italy while on the job, making it one of the highest rates in Europe.

According to Rete Iside, an association for social intervention, 2023 started as bad as its predecessors. In fact, over 100 workers have already passed away while working in Italy since the beginning of the year. This is why many unions and associations are pledging the Italian government to implement the crime of homicide on the job. This would ensure harsher punishments for those responsible for white deaths. However, this decree has been discussed for almost a decade and it still has not been converted into a law.

The Genoa Junction Project

In its totality, the Genoa Junction Project will be a railway section that will connect Genoa, in Liguria, with Tortona, in Piedmont, both in northwestern Italy. The Pass will therefore connect the port of Genoa with the Po Valley and the rest of Northern Italy and thus Europe by being integrated into the TEN-T Rhine-Alpine corridor.

Works have commenced in 2013 for a total estimated cost of over 6 billion euros. The railway line will be 53 kilometres long, 37 of which are in tunnels, crossing 14 towns. One of the advantages of the Third Pass is that it will allow goods coming by ships from China to shift to the rail in the port of Genoa instead of reaching the North Sea. This option would save five days of transit time for ships coming from the Far East.

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Author: Marco Raimondi

Marco Raimondi is an editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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