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OSHA National News Release
U.S. Department of Labor
News Release 98-302
Wednesday, July 15, 1998
Contact: Bill Wright (202) 219-8151
Bill Murphy (513) 841-4132
Fred Alverson, US Attorney's Office (614) 469-5715
FOREMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS
CONSTRUCTION WORKER DEATH RESULTS IN CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST INDIANA STEEL CONTRACTOR AND SUPERVISOR
The death of a construction worker has prompted a federal grand jury in Ohio to return indictments against an Indiana-based steel erection contractor and its supervisor, the Department of Justice announced today. The indictments come on the heels of an accident investigation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
The four-count indictment was returned against LeMaster Steel Erectors, Inc., Elkhart, Ind. The indictment charges LeMaster with willfully violating fall protection regulations at a construction site in Mason, Ohio. The indictment also charges LeMaster Steel with three counts of obstruction of justice, and its construction supervisor with two counts of obstruction of justice.
"All workers have a right to a safe workplace," said Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman. "That must be a priority above all else. When employers don't adhere to that priority, tragedy can result. In this case, a worker died because of alleged willful violations to existing standards, and the company now faces criminal prosecution. All of this could have been avoided if proper safety and health practices had been in place."
A site foreman pled guilty yesterday to making false statements to OSHA investigators, according to Sharon J. Zealey, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
On Aug. 9, 1996, an employee of LeMaster Steel fell 28 feet to his death during a metal roof decking operation. OSHA's investigation into the fatality revealed that five employees were, at different times, working at the edge without required fall protection. OSHA cited the company on Jan. 30, 1997 for two alleged willful violations for lack of fall protection, and proposed a total penalty of $140,000. OSHA then referred the case to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.
The indictment alleges that LeMaster Steel, through the actions of its site foreman, obstructed justice by falsely stating to OSHA investigators that fall protection was in place prior to the accident. The company, and its supervisor, were also charged with two counts of obstructing justice by intentionally instructing witnesses to withhold information about the lack of fall protection.
"The indictments returned today in Ohio emphasize the importance of worker safety in this country," said Charles N. Jeffress, OSHA Administrator. "We want to assist employers in providing that safety for their employees. However, during the course of our investigations, we will not hesitate to refer a case to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution, if we believe it's warranted. That is precisely what occurred with LeMaster Steel."
LeMaster Steel has multiple steel erection sites in the Midwest with an estimated total employment of approximately 100 workers, 12 of whom worked at the Mason, Ohio site. Following the criminal investigation, the company closed the Ohio branch of operations; however, the company still performs construction work in the area.
Falls are the leading cause of worker fatalities in the construction industry. Each year, approximately 150-200 workers are killed, and more than 100,000 are injured as a result of falls at construction sites. Current fall protection standards have performance-oriented requirements which make it simpler for employers to provide workers necessary protection. Under the standard, employers are able to select fall protection measures compatible with the type of work being performed. Fall protection generally can be provided through the use of guardrail, safety net, personal fall arrest, positioning device, and warning line systems, among others.
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