Subcontractor Fined For Scaffold Safety Violations

OSHA cited Austin Builders Inc., and proposed penalties totaling\r\n$229,250 for safety violations found at a Lithia, Fla., construction\r\nsite.

OSHA cited Austin Builders Inc., and proposed penalties totaling $229,250 for safety violations found at a Lithia, Fla., construction site.

"The owner of this company demonstrated a total disregard for the safety of his employees," said Lawrence Falck, OSHA''s Tampa area director. "An OSHA compliance officer, driving by the construction site, observed workers 18 to 30 feet above the ground on scaffold without guard rails. A safety inspection was conducted immediately because of OSHA''s fall prevention emphasis program."

The July 5 inspection revealed other safety violations as well. OSHA cited the company for three willful violations with proposed penalties totaling $210,000 for allowing employees:

  • to work on scaffolds erected over unstable mudsills with open holes beneath;
  • to climb either a "stair-stepped" masonry block wall or the scaffolding frames to reach the platform working level 18 to 30 feet above the ground;
  • to work on the scaffold platform with no guardrails or other means of fall protection.

According to Falck, the general contractor had repeatedly warned Austin Builder''s owner about the hazardous conditions and had withheld draw-down funds until hazards were abated.

But the subcontractor kept reverting to unsafe practices and was fired shortly after the OSHA inspection.

Prior to the OSHA inspection, a building inspector advised the subcontractor about unsafe practices and cited the company for improper construction methods.

OSHA also cited Austin Builders for five serious safety violations with proposed penalties totaling $19,250 for: exposing employees to the risk of impalement on unguarded rebars beneath the scaffold; allowing employees to work on scaffolds without cross bracing; not protecting employees working under the scaffold from falling objects, such as tools and material; not properly restraining scaffolds so they would not tip over; and, not training employees to recognize and avoid safety hazards at the job site.

Falck said the agency will work with employers who show a genuine concern for the welfare of workers.

In 1999, OSHA launched the CARE program -- Construction Accident Reduction Emphasis -- with a series of extensive outreach training programs for the construction industry.

Encouraged by the industry''s positive response to that program, in May 2000, the agency initiated another local emphasis program targeted to reduce falls, a major cause of worker injuries and fatalities.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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