As a few employers are finding out, OSHA is serious about reducing the number of workers killed in fatal falls.
Falls are the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the construction industry, and failing to provide fall protection is one of the 10 most-frequently cited OSHA violations. In 2012, 269 fatalities – nearly one-third – of the 775 construction-related fatalities nationwide were fall-related.
OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page at with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly 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 agency will have a National Safety Stand-Down from June 2-6 to raise awareness among employers and workers about the hazards of falls. During the stand-down, employers and workers are asked to pause during their workday to talk about fall prevention in construction and discuss topics, such as ladder, scaffolding and roofing work safety. OSHA also launched an official National Safety Stand-Down web site with information on how to conduct a successful stand-down. Afterward, employers will be able to provide feedback and receive a personalized certificate of participation.
In the meantime, though, the agency appears to be targeting fall hazards on construction sites. Here are just a few of the companies cited by OSHA in the past month.
May 6 - Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management LLC
This Stamford, Conn.-based contractor faces $196,000 in fines for two willful and 12 serious violations following an inspection by OSHA. The company was cited by the agency following a November 2013 inspection at a Bridgeport work site, which found that workers demolishing and rehabbing a building allegedly were exposed to potentially fatal crushing injuries and other hazards “due to their employer’s failure to brace the building's walls and adhere to basic, legally required safeguards,” according to OSHA.
For more information about this case, see “Connecticut Contractor Faces $196,000 in OSHA Fines for Demolition Safety Hazards.”
May 5 - Custom Valley Builders LLC
Residential builder and remodeler Custom Valley Builders LLC, located in Lykens, Pa., was cited by OSHA for allegedly exposing workers to safety hazards at a work site in Hegins, Pa. Workers were exposed to a fall hazard while replacing the roof, siding and windows on a two-story residence.
Citations were issued for one willful violation and two serious violations following an inspection initiated under the agency's Fall Protection Regional Emphasis Program. Proposed penalties total $33,200.
“Falls are the leading cause of death in construction,” said Mark Stelmack, director of OSHA’s Wilkes-Barre Area Office. “We and employers know how to prevent fall fatalities, and it is unacceptable that Custom Valley Builders failed to provide its employees with proper protection.”
The willful violation, with a $28,000 penalty, was because of a lack of fall protection for employees working on a roof 19 to 24 feet off the ground. The serious violations involve a lack of guarding on a portable angle grinder and the lack of fall protection for employees working from an aerial lift. Penalties for the serious violations total $5,200.
May 1 - Five Star Commercial Roofing
Five Star Commercial Roofing Inc. was issued a willful safety violation by OSHA after allegedly exposing workers to fall hazards of 29 feet at a commercial roofing project in Bartonville. Ill.. OSHA inspectors found workers exposed during a March 3 investigation and proposed civil penalties of $49,000.
The exposure came as workers installed roofing materials on a commercial sales and service building. Since 2009, the Hartford City, Ind.-based company has been cited by OSHA five times in Illinois, Ohio and Indiana for similar violations.
“Falls remain the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Allowing construction workers on roofs without fall protection is inexcusable,” said Tom Bielema, OSHA's area director in Peoria. “OSHA has previously provided Five Star Commercial Roofing with safety information, examples of safety and health programs, training and other information to assist them in abating these safety issues and protecting their workers. Yet the employer failed to ensure that workers were protected.”
April 24 - Rogers Roofing Inc.
Rogers Roofing Inc. was issued citations for two safety violations by OSHA for exposing workers to fall hazards at a residential site on Feb. 28. Proposed penalties for the company, which has been cited by OSHA six times in the past six years for similar violations, total $44,660.
Noting that failing to protect construction workers on roofs from falls is “inexcusable,” Kathy Webb, OSHA’s area director in Calumet City, Ill., added, “Employers, such as Rogers Roofing, are repeatedly placing workers’ safety and lives at risk by failing to abide by existing safety standards.”
OSHA found that roofers were working without required means of fall protection, such as a personal fall arrest system, creating a potentially hazardous work environment.
Rogers Roofing, based in Hammond, Ind., was issued one willful violation for failing to protect employees from falls, as well as a serious violation for allowing workers to carry any objects or loads while accessing the roof that could cause them to lose balance and fall.
April 21 - Amalda Enterprises Inc.
Houston contractor Amalda Enterprises Inc. has been cited by OSHA with one willful violation for exposing workers to fall hazards while installing gutters at a construction site in Houston and fined $70,000.
OSHA’s Houston North Area Office began the March inspection under a regional enforcement initiative to prevent deaths among workers in the construction industry. In Texas, there were 28 construction-related fatalities from slips, trips and falls in 2012.
“Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry, and Amalda Enterprise is very much aware of how to protect its workers,” said David Doucet, OSHA's area director in the Houston North office. “Such disregard for worker safety will not be tolerated, which is why OSHA issued the maximum penalty amount under the law for this violation.”
The willful violation was cited for exposing employees who were working on an unprotected side or edge of a building to falls. Three workers were installing gutters from the roof of a newly built warehouse without fall protection, ultimately exposing these workers to falls of 21 feet or more. Two of the workers were wearing body harnesses, but the employer failed to install a guardrail system, safety net system or personal fall arrest system that included an anchorage point for attachment of the worker’s body harness and lanyard.
OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection, such as guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems, be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.
April 9 - Case Development LLC
OSHA has proposed $90,600 in fines for Case Development LLC, the general building contractor of an apartment complex in Norman, Okla. The company has been cited by the agency for serious and repeat violations following a November 2013 inspection. OSHA found the company failed to protect workers from dangerous falls and other serious hazards.
“Workers who work at heights are at risk for serious injury or death if they fall,” said David Bates, OSHA’s area director in Oklahoma City. “To protect these workers, employers must provide fall protection, such as safety harnesses.”
The inspection was initiated under the agency’s Regional Emphasis Program on construction fall hazards. Two repeat violations, with a fine of $77,000, were cited for failing to protect workers in aerial lifts from falls and failing to require fall protection for workers conducting residential construction. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The company was cited for similar violations during a July 2009 inspection in Tulsa and a March 2010 inspection in Oklahoma City.
Two serious violations, with a fine of $13,600, were cited for failing to ensure workers exposed to overhead hazards wore head protection and that ladders were used in a safe manner.
Case Development has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on employers “that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations,” according to the agency. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.