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Region 1 News Release:    BOS 99-223
Thursday, December 2, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074

Need to Safeguard against Potentially Fatal Falls Stressed

OSHA CITES TWO NEW HAMPSHIRE CONTRACTORS FOR ALLEGED FALL PROTECTION HAZARDS AT MANCHESTER WORKSITE; NEARLY $40,000 IN FINES PROPOSED

The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited two Manchester, New Hampshire, contractors -- Exterior Designs, Inc., and Airtight, LLC - for alleged violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a Manchester worksite and has proposed combined penalties against the two companies totaling $39,900.

According to David May, OSHA area director for New Hampshire, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection conducted October 7, 1999, at a building renovation project located at the corner of Kidder and Elm Streets in Manchester and chiefly concern the lack of adequate fall protection for employees. Exterior Designs was performing stucco work on the outside of the building and had 13 employees working onsite at the time of the inspection; Airtight, LLC, the renovation project's general contractor, had 4 employees working onsite at the time.

"An OSHA compliance officer who was passing by this jobsite observed employees working on the second and third floors of this building without any visible fall protection, a situation which exposed these workers to potentially fatal falls," said May. "In line with OSHA's special emphasis program on fall protection, an inspection was opened immediately and these citations and fines are the result of that inspection."

OSHA's inspection found employees of both contractors exposed to a variety of fall hazards, in particular, potential falls of up to 50 feet through unguarded exterior wall openings on the second through fifth floors of the building.

Workers for Exterior Designs, Inc. were also exposed to additional hazards involving the erection and use of scaffolding, including:

  • employees erecting scaffolding without fall protection;
    • an employee working in an aerial lift without fall protection;
    • employees accessing the building's third floor by jumping from the scissors lift through a wall opening
    • improperly installed scaffolding support posts
    • employees not adequately trained nor knowledgeable about scaffold erection;
    • scaffold erection not supervised by a competent person.

Noting that 28 New England workers fell to their deaths on the job in 1998, May explained that OSHA is seeking to reduce that number through a New England-wide special emphasis program that combines employer education with active enforcement. One element of that program includes unannounced spot inspections when OSHA inspectors observe employees working more than 10 feet above the next lower level without any apparent fall protection.

"So far this year, New Hampshire has been spared any fatal workplace falls but employer and worker alike cannot and should not be lulled into a false sense of security because of that," he said. "Fall prevention is not a product of good fortune. Rather, it's the result of knowing, providing and utilizing clear, basic and required worker safeguards."

Specifically:

Exterior Designs, Inc. faces a total of $33,900 in proposed penalties for:

  • Nine alleged Serious violations, accounting for $17,100 of the proposed penalties, for:
    • scaffold erection was not supervised by a competent person;
    • employees accessed the third floor by jumping from an aerial lift through a wall opening;
    • an employee operated an aerial lift without fall protection;
    • scaffolding support posts were not installed in a level and sound manner;
    • scaffold support posts were not installed plumb;
    • an unguarded wall opening;
    • an unguarded floor hole and an unguarded stairwell;
    • stairwell missing a handrail;
    • a stairwell lacking guardrails.
  • Two alleged Repeat violations, accounting for $16,800 of the penalties proposed, for:
    • employees erecting scaffolding without the use of fall protection;
    • employees climbing cross braces to exit tubular a welded frame scaffold.
    • [Exterior Designs, Inc. had previously been cited by OSHA for substantially similar violations in citations issued April 6, 1998, following an inspection at a Portsmouth, NH, worksite].
    • One alleged Other than Serious violation, with no proposed penalty, for:
    • inadequately supported scaffolding midrails and toprails.

Airtight LLC faces $6,000 in proposed penalties for:

  • Four alleged Serious violations for:
    • an unguarded wall opening;
    • an unguarded floor hole and an unguarded stairwell;
    • stairwell missing a handrail;
    • a stairwell lacking guardrails.
  • Three alleged Other than Serious violation, with no penalties proposed, for:
    • inadequate training and exposure assessment for Class IV asbestos work.

May encouraged Granite State employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Concord at 603-225-1629 and 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.

A serious violation is defined by OSHA as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. An other-than-serious violation is a condition which would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees. A repeat citation is issued by OSHA when an employer has been cited for a substantially similar hazard in a previous OSHA inspection and that citation has become final.

OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed. 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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The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.


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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


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