Fatal Scaffolding Accident Drops $159,350 in Fines on Contractors

OSHA finds improperly erected scaffolding and failure to train workers on the hazards of working with scaffolding resulted in the deaths of five workers and injuries to 10 more on Oct. 24, 2001.

Improperly erected scaffolding and failure to train workers on the hazards of working with scaffolding which resulted in the deaths of five workers and injuries to 10 more on Oct. 24, 2001, means citations for three New York contractors - Nesa Inc, Tri-State Scaffolding & Equipment Supplies Inc. and New Millennium Restoration & Contracting Corp., - and $159,350 in penalties, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"Aggressive action is necessary against employers who willfully disregard worker protections. This case resulted in the deaths of innocent workers," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "These penalties should serve as notice to Nesa Inc., Tri-State Scaffolding and New Millennium Restoration to take immediate corrective action to ensure that no such tragedy occurs again under their supervision."

The scaffolding accident took place at 210 Park Avenue South in Manhattan, at a building that was undergoing restoration. Nesa Inc. was the general contractor on the project; Tri-State Scaffolding was hired by Nesa Inc. to build the scaffolding; and New Millennium was hired by a DPA, a subcontractor of Nesa Inc., to perform the demolition and restoration work. The scaffolding, approximately 160 feet high from bottom baseplate to the top, collapsed at approximately 4 p.m. on Oct. 24, killing five employees and injuring 10 more. Approximately 300 police and fire rescuers responded to the collapse. Killed in the accident were Manuel Barrariso, 40; Ivan Pillacela, 30; Efrain Gonzalez, 26; Donato Conde, 19; and Cesar F. Tenesaca, 25.

"Employers should take this enforcement action as a clear indication that OSHA remains committed to vigorous enforcement of construction safety standards," said Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health John L. Henshaw. "The tragic deaths of these workers show us that some workplaces still remain are dangerous and unsafe, including places where Hispanic and other immigrant workers are employed. We are committed to assuring that all workers are provided safety and health protections."

OSHA proposed two alleged willful and four alleged serious citations for Tri-State Scaffolding, with a proposed penalty of $146,600, for erection of a scaffold that violated scaffold safety rules; for erecting a scaffold not designed by a professional engineer; and other violations of scaffolding and worker protection rules. Serious citations, with a proposed penalty of $9,750, are proposed for New Millennium Restoration, including failure to train employees on various hazards, failure to require personal protective equipment and other violations of safety and health protections. Serious citations with a proposed penalty of $3,000 have also been proposed against Nesa Inc., for not providing falling object protection and failure to brace scaffold frames.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A serious violation is one where there is a substantial probability that death or serious harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. The employers have 15 working days to contest OSHAs citations and proposed penalties.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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