Florida Company Takes a Fall, Faces OSHA Fine

A company's failure to provide protection from fall hazzards contributes to the death of an employee, earning it OSHA citations and fines.

A Lake City, Fla., company''s failure to provide protection from fall hazards contributed to the death of an employee and earned it alleged willful and serious safety violations and proposed penalties totaling $77,000 from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The fatal accident occurred on Aug. 7 as an employee of Anderson Columbia Co. Inc. was placing traffic-warning signs along U.S. Highway 41 North, near White Springs, where the company was installing pipelines. After placing a sign, the employee returned to the truck bed and sat down near the remaining signs while the driver slowly drove to the next location. As he approached the final location, the driver looked into his rear-view mirror and saw his co-worker lying on the roadside.

The probable cause of the accident, based on OSHA''s investigation, was that the worker fell from the truck bed as he attempted to reach for a sign caught by a wind gust. The worker died four days later from massive head injuries.

"To prevent this type of needless tragedy, OSHA standards require employers to provide employees with adequate seats and seat belts when they are transported in, or work from, vehicles," said James D. Borders, OSHA''s Jacksonville area director. "When material is transported in the same space, in this case the back of a pick-up truck, it must be prevented from moving."

OSHA cited Anderson Columbia for one alleged willful violation with a $70,000 proposed penalty for failing to provide an adequate seat and seat belt for an employee working from the back of a truck.

The company''s written policy requires employees to ride on seats provided and use seat belts and prohibits them from riding in the back of company pickup trucks, but company officials "failed to enforce the rules," said Borders.

Anderson Columbia was also cited for an alleged serious violation with a proposed $7,000 penalty for failing to properly secure materials being transported in the same compartment with employees.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA''s citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Board.

by Sandy Smith (ssmith@penton.com)

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