Lee, Mass., contractor cited by US Labor Department's OSHA
for "needless and avoidable" fatal fall at Stockbridge work site
Employers urged to participate in voluntary fall safety stand-down in June
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A 51-year-old roofer fell 17 feet to his death on Nov. 14, 2013, while performing roofing work on condominium at 57 Main St. in Stockbridge, Mass. An investigation by the Springfield Area Office of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that his employer, Lee-based Fairview Contractors Inc., failed to provide fall protection and guardrails that would have prevented the fall from occurring.
"This was a needless and avoidable loss of a worker's life. While guardrails and fall arrest systems were present at this work site, they were not used and were thus useless," said Mary Hoye, OSHA's area director for central and western Massachusetts. "Fatalities such as this will stop only when employers supply and ensure the use of effective and legally required fall protection safeguards on all job sites at all times."
OSHA found that the four scaffolds on which the employees worked lacked guardrails and that employees working on the roof and scaffolds lacked fall arrest systems. An additional fall hazard stemmed from a lack of guardrails for walkboards that workers used to access one scaffold from another. Fairview Contractors also failed to train the workers about how to recognize hazards and work safely on scaffolds, roofs and ladders. As a result of these conditions, OSHA cited Fairview Contractors for two willful violations for the lack of fall protection and five serious violations for the remaining hazards.
The worker's death was one of seven fatal falls in Massachusetts' construction industry in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work, yet they are also among the types of hazards that are the most easily identifiable and eliminated. Failing to provide fall protection for workers is one of the 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations.
To raise awareness of fall hazards and safeguards, a National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls in construction will be conducted from June 2 to June 6. This is a voluntary event in which employers talk directly to their employees about fall hazards and reinforce the importance of fall prevention. Participating employers will stop their work and provide a focused toolbox talk on a safety topic, such as ladder safety, fall protection equipment or scaffold safety. OSHA is encouraging employers and workers to participate. Detailed information on the Stand-Down is available at NationalSafetyStand-Down.
"The Stand-Down is part of OSHA's ongoing fall prevention campaign aimed at educating workers, employers and the public about the need for employers to plan to work safely, provide their employees with proper and effective fall protection equipment, and train their employees to recognize fall hazards and use the equipment safety," said Robert Hooper, OSHA's acting New England regional administrator. "For the sake of their employees' safety and well-being, we're asking employers in New England to take a few minutes to focus on preventing this deadly hazard."
A willful violation is committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Fairview Contractors, which faces a total of $119,350 in proposed fines, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission. The citations can be viewed at Fairview Contractors citations*.
OSHA has placed Fairview Contractors in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in March 2011, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.
To ask questions; obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Springfield Area Office at 413-785-0123.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).