The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has fined a Georgia company for failing to protect workers on at least seven different occasions from fall hazards. Workers were reportedly exposed to hazards of up to 13 feet on an Alabama project site.
The company, a masonry firm, was fined $130,000. OSHA inspectors reportedly observed employees toiling on second-story scaffolding with no personal fall arrest system or guardrails. There was also allegedly no safe access or egress from the scaffolding via a sturdy ladder.
OSHA reportedly had investigators who came out to inspect this particular project on six different occasions over the course of five years and it has cited the company for fall hazards on each and every one of those visits.
As our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, falls are a major cause of injury and death on construction sites. In fact, they are the No. 1 cause of death in the construction industry. In 2013, falls accounted for more than 290 of all 828 total construction site deaths.
When employees are working from heights – whether it’s ladders or scaffolds or roofs – it’s imperative that employers make sure workers have all the training and tools they need to get the job done safely.
Fines like this are important because workers do not often have the ability to sue their own employers if they are injured on the job. While employers may well have to pay workers’ compensation benefits to their workers who are injured as a result of employer negligence, they don’t generally have to compensate workers for pain and suffering or punitive damages. That’s why outside penalties like this are so important.
OSHA and even prosecutors are starting to take these actions more seriously. Recall that just recently, a contractor in Brooklyn was arrested and charged with manslaughter and homicide in the April 2015 death of a worker. Prosecutors allege one of the company’s workers fell six stories after walking backward on a ledge without a fall protection system. This was something that was the employer’s responsibility to provide.
Also, fines for violators like this one are going to spike 80 percent by August because that is when OSHA has announced it plans to raise its fine structure to the Consumer Price Index levels. It will be the first time fines have increased in 26 years, since 1990.
Of the safety violations for which the Georgia company was recently cited, two of those were deemed to be “willful.” Part of this has to do with the fact the company had been cited for these exact workplace hazards before.
OSHA notes that fall prevention on any work site requires two things:
- Planning ahead so the job can be done safely.
- Providing the proper equipment to workers who are more than six feet or more above the lower levels.
- Training everyone on site how to use that equipment safely and how to recognize common fall risks.
The agency insists that virtually all falls from ladders, roofs and scaffolding is preventable.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.