For one Georgia employer, a workplace tragedy has led to a sizable fine.
A 42-year-old worker fell approximately 19 feet off scaffolding to his death while applying stucco to a pre-existing building that was being renovated as a college dormitory for East Georgia State College in Swainsboro. As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation following the Sept. 20, 2013, fatality and cited Jack Smiley, doing business as Smiley Plaster Co., for five safety violations, including a willful violation of the law.
Employer Knowingly Failed To Provide Properly Built Scaffold System
“A worker died after the employer knowingly failed to provide a properly built scaffold system to protect employees from fall hazards,” said Robert Vazzi, OSHA’s area director in Savannah. “Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Employers must ensure their workers are protected.”
OSHA issued a willful citation to the employer for its failure to provide fall protection to employees who work from scaffolding at heights over 10 feet. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Due to the willful violation, the company has been put into OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses resources on inspecting employers that have demonstrated indifference to their legal obligations by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.
Three serious violations were cited for the employer failing to provide adequate scaffolding foundation; failing to brace the scaffolding; and failing to provide debris protection, such as toe boards, for employees working on scaffolding. 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.
269 Fall Related Fatalities Out of 775 Construction Related Fatalities
The company was also cited with one other-than-serious violation for failing to report the fatality within eight hours of the incident. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA has proposed $57,000 in penalties.
In 2012, there were 269 fall-related fatalities out of the 775 construction-related fatalities. OSHA’s fall prevention campaign provides employers and workers with lifesaving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs. The campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program.
Smiley Plaster Co., a stucco and masonry construction company in Twin City, was given 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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