One hour after six workers atop an Eau Claire, Wisconsin residential roof donned required safety harnesses to satisfy a federal safety inspection on May 20, 2016, the inspector returned to the site and found the employees working again without proper fall protection and in danger of falls of up to 14 feet.
This is sixth time since 2010 that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited contractor Hector Hernandez, who operates as Town City Construction, for putting his employees at risk by violating fall safety standards.
The agency cited the company with one willful violation and an additional $70,000 in proposed federal fines on June 13. The Appleton-based company has ignored five previous OSHA inspections resulting in fall protection violations cited from 2010 through 2015, including willful violation cited last year.
“Town City continues to callously put its employees at risk for serious injuries or death because the company refuses to use fall protection,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire. “Preventable falls account for nearly 40 percent of all deaths in the construction industry. I fear that only serious injury or death of an employee will convince this contractor to use required safety equipment. OSHA is committed to protecting workers from that fate.”
OSHA inspectors saw five Town City employees on a home in the 1100 block of East Tyler Avenue facing down the roof’s slope while tearing off the existing asphalt shingles with tools at the roof’s eave. They also found a sixth employee standing along the rake edge at the peak of the roof, while preparing to install under layment materials and ice and water guards, across the peak of the roof. Workers were at risk of falls up to 14 feet.
Fall Violations Becoming Too Common for Worksites
The agency has cited Town City for fall violations six times at Wisconsin work sites. Inspectors issued a willful violation in 2015 in Wisconsin Rapids, a second repeated violation in 2013 in Appleton, a repeated violation in 2012 in Sherwood and serious violations in Appleton in 2012 and Greenwood in 2010. The company has failed to pay fines or respond to previous OSHA citations.
Federal safety and health officials are determined to reduce the numbers of preventable, fall-related deaths in the construction industry. OSHA offers a Stop Falls online resource with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page provides fact sheets, posters and videos that illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures. OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.
The ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program. Begun in 2012, the campaign provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for workers and train employees to use gear properly.
Town City was provided 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and 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: email@example.com.
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