OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
A former Deland, Fla.., subcontractor has been sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to a criminal misdemeanor for contributing to a worker's death in Orange Park two years ago.
John B. Coffman, doing business as Southeast Industrial Painting, is the second of two contractors sentenced in the case which grew out of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Defendant Randall Keith Ginzig, president of Jacksonville-based Eagle Tank Technology & Renovation Corporation, was sentenced December 29, 1999, to three years probation, four months of which will be served under house arrest. He was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and to pay funeral expenses for the deceased employee.
OSHA pursued criminal action against both companies through the U.S. Attorney's Office because the employers contributed to the worker's death by willfully ignoring safety standards. Coffman and Eagle Tank pled guilty to a misdemeanor for willful disregard of OSHA's confined space requirements and for allowing a worker to enter the tank without proper training and safety equipment. In addition, Ginzig pled guilty to a felony for falsifying records submitted to OSHA in an attempt to cover up the cause of the worker's death.
According to Cindy Coe, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Atlanta, Eagle Tank had a contract with the Clay County Utility Authority to refurbish and renovate steel water treatment facility tanks at the Orange Park site. The contractor hired Coffman's firm to assist in the renovation work. Coe explained, "A Southeast Industrial Painting employee was preparing to enter the single access port hole of a tank to paint the interior when an explosion propelled him about 15 feet into a building wall."
Following its investigation of the fatal blast, OSHA cited Eagle Tank for 17 serious, 11 repeat and 10 willful violations of safety and health standards which were settled for $85,000 in a civil agreement prior to criminal proceedings. Coffman, the subcontractor on the job, was cited for 57 serious and seven willful violations of safety and health standards and fined $120,150. A civil hearing on these contested penalties is pending.
Although criminal prosecutions related to OSHA violations are rare, this case brings the total to five defendants in three separate cases where federal criminal charges have been filed since the beginning of 1997 in the Jacksonville, Fla., area. "Anytime we believe an employer has willfully violated safety standards and those violations caused or contributed to the death of a worker, OSHA will vigorously pursue criminal charges," said James Borders, OSHA's Jacksonville area director.
Coe added, "We are grateful to the U.S. Attorney's Office for their hard work and commitment in this case because it sends a message to company owners that this type of reckless disregard for workplace and employee safety will not be tolerated."
To address the alarming increase in construction fatalities in Florida, OSHA recently launched a special program -- Construction Accident Reduction Emphasis (CARE). According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Florida ranks third in the nation and is the South's leader in number of fatal construction worker accidents and those numbers continue to grow. Since March 1999, OSHA's CARE project has resulted in increased outreach to the public, workers and employers and has produced alliances with other organizations to increase the number of training seminars available. The agency has also stepped up its construction industry enforcement activity in an effort to reduce construction fatalities by 15% nationally and 40% in Florida over the next three years.
Investigation of the Eagle Tank fatality was conducted by OSHA's area office located at the Ribault Building, Room 227, 1851 Executive Center Dr., Jacksonville, Fla. 32207; telephone: (904) 232-2895.
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