Fatal Fall Results in OSHA Citations, Fines, for Louisiana Company

A company with a long inspection history with OSHA is cited for willful and serious violations after an employee falls 86 feet to his death.

An employee of Red Simpson Inc. fell 86 feet to his death on April 3 at a jobsite in Ocean Springs, Miss., prompting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to cite the company for failure to provide adequate fall protection for employees. OSHA issued in one willful and three serious citations against the Louisiana company, and proposed fines of $91,000.

The employee fell while doing maintenance work to a switch assembly on a transmission pole. Although the employee was wearing a body harness with a lanyard, it was not attached to an anchor point capable of preventing his fall. Like most fall-related deaths and injuries, this one was preventable, according to OSHA.

"This employer failed to properly train employees in fall hazards and fall protection, particularly how to tie off safely in this work environment," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson area director. "Ensuring that the proper workplace safeguards were followed could have prevented this tragic accident."

It is not the first time this employer has tangled with OSHA. The agency has inspected the company about 20 times since 1986 -- 12 times as the result of fatalities due to various causes, including electrocution, being crushed and falling.

This time, one willful citation was issued because Red Simpson allegedly failed to ensure that employees working at heights over six feet above the ground were tied off as required. The company also received three alleged serious citations for fall-related hazards.

OSHA inspectors discovered that a personnel basket attached to the boom of a crane was used to lift employees to heights up to 86 feet above the ground where they would transfer to a switch platform to do maintenance and repair work. OSHA cited the company for not ensuring that this practice was safe by securing the personnel basket to the structure to prevent movement during employee transfer and for not requiring that employees being transferred wore proper fall protection.

The remaining alleged serious citations included failing to instruct employees on fall hazards and fall protection, including properly securing a crane boom's personnel basket for stability and using fall arrest equipment correctly so that the lanyard is properly attached to an anchor point strong enough to support the required 5,000 pounds.

Red Simpson employs about 1,100 workers. Ten employees were on the Ocean Springs site to provide general line work for Mississippi Power Company's overhead transmission facilities. The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

edited by Sandy Smith

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