Worker Fatality Results in OSHA Citations, Fines for Three NY Contractors

H Rock Corp. Sing Da Corp. and Vera Construction Inc. have been cited by OSHA for alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards following an investigation of a Jan. 10 fatality that occurred on a construction site in Elmhurst, Queens, N.Y.

Employees were filling an 18-foot-high by 65-foot-long concrete block wall with cement when the wall collapsed, killing one employee and hospitalizing three others. These workers were employees of Sing Da Corp., which does business as Chung Hing Co.

According to Eugene Corcoran, deputy commissioner of enforcement for the area, two of the workers were on the top of the wall and were able to ride it down as it fell, “which is quite possibly why they were able to survive,” he said. The other two, including the deceased worker, were on a scaffold and were caught in the collapse.

The worker who died was trapped between the scaffolding and the collapsed wall, and rescuers had to dig him out and cut through the scaffolding to reach him.

Sing Da Corp. was cited for one willful violation carrying a proposed fine of $42,000 for failing to brace the block wall. 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. The company also was cited for five serious violations with proposed penalties of $21,000 for various scaffold-related safety hazards.

H Rock Corp. was cited for serious violations related to not properly bracing the wall scaffold safety, unguarded floor holes, lack of head protection and lack of a safety program. Proposed penalties total $38,000. 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.

Vera Construction Inc. was cited for three serious violations with $8,580 in penalties for unguarded floor holes, not having caps on reinforcing steel and not having a safety program. The company also received two repeat violations with fines of $6,732 were issued by OSHA inspectors for hazard communication failures and a lack of hard hats. The company received similar citations in 2008 and 2009. 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 5 years.

“This was a tragic incident that could have been avoided by taking the simple and obvious precaution of bracing the block wall before trying to fill it with cement,” said Kay Gee, OSHA’s area director in Manhattan.

Proposed penalties for the three employers total $116,312. The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with Gee or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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