OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
Worker fell 32 feet to his death from makeshift work platform
OSHA CITES WORCESTER, MASS., CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL SAFETY VIOLATIONS AFTER FATALITY AT CHARLTON, MASS., JOBSITE
BOSTON -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Lauring Construction Company, Inc., a Worcester, Mass., contractor, for two alleged willful violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the death of a worker who fell from a makeshift work platform at a Charlton, Mass., worksite. OSHA has proposed penalties of $42,000 against the company.
The victim was a plasterer employed by subcontractor Samia Management & Contracting of Oxford, Mass., on a renovation and repair project on St. Joseph's Church, 10 H. Putnam Road Extension, in Charlton. Loring Construction was the general contractor and controlling employer on the project and thus had overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with safety and health standards, according to Ronald E. Morin, OSHA area director for central and western Massachusetts.
On March 20, 2001, the plasterer was working on the church's third floor steeple. He was standing on a portable ladder placed atop a makeshift work platform composed of two planks that were laid catty-corner across iron railings and covered with a sheet of plywood. The wood dislodged and he fell 32 feet to the concrete floor beneath.
"This accident could have been prevented if two safety requirements had been followed: provide the worker with effective fall protection, and ensure he was working on a stable surface," Morin said. "These vital safeguards were ignored, and a worker died."
Noting data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that show falls are the leading cause of death in construction work, accounting for 253 deaths in 1999, Morin added: "This is a textbook example of why applicable safety standards must be followed on each and every jobsite," he said. "Sometimes, there is no second chance to do so."
Specifically, Lauring Construction was cited for:
failing to ensure that the plasterer was protected from falls by means of guardrails, safety nets or a personal fall arrest system; and
failing to determine if the work platform had the strength and structural integrity to safely support the worker.
Morin explained that the citations are classified as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation, issued when OSHA believes, based on its inspection, that the employer knew what safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently elected to not provide them.
As part of OSHA's ongoing efforts to help workers and employers lessen this deadly toll, the agency's website (www.osha.gov) contains detailed information on the causes of and means of preventing construction-related falls.
The website now includes an electronic compliance assistance tool, or e-CAT (www.osha-slc.gov/doc/construction_ecats.html), which employers can use to help develop comprehensive safety and health programs to identify and eliminate fall hazards.
Morin urged Worcester County employers and employees with questions regarding fall protection or other workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Springfield at 413-785-0123. He added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline -- 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) -- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act to issue standards requiring employers to provide employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites. Through workplace inspections the agency assures that standards are followed, and may propose penalties based on violations found.
The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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