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15-year-old Roofer Falls to Death in Alabama

Jan. 14, 2020
OSHA investigates underage worker fatality at a commercial roofing site in Cullman, Ala.

The first day of work should be exciting for a young teenager. For one Alabama teen, it was also his last.

On July 1, 2019, a 15-year-old Guatemalan boy reported to duty for a commercial roofing assignment in Cullman, Ala. The boy lived in Vestavia Hills, a suburb of Birmingham.

The teen was a WW Restoration LLC employee, a subcontractor for the project. The primary contractor on site was Apex Roofing and Restoration LLC.

According to local news outlet The Cullman Tribune, the young male was working to remove the roof of the Cullman Casting building when he fell 40 feet and sustained fatal injuries. Multiple witness statements along with the Cullman Police Department confirmed that none of the workers on the job site were wearing safety harnesses.

A subsequent OSHA investigation cited both WW Restoration and Apex Roofing for exposing workers to fall hazards.

"Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their employees are protected at all times," said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris in a statement. "This responsibility includes providing appropriate training and conducting assessments to make sure workers understand hazards, and supplying fall protection to minimize the risk of serious or fatal injuries."

Both companies were cited as a single employer because they both shared supervision on a common worksite and have "interrelated operations and integrated working relationships," OSHA stated.

Agency investigators discovered that workers were exposed to fall hazards while installing standing seam roofing 49 ft. above ground level without being tied off, which resulted in the following willful citation:

29 CFR 1926.760 (a)(1): Each employee engaged in a steel erection activity who is on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 ft. above a lower level was not protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems or fall restraint systems.

A second willful citation was given to the employers for violating 29 CFR 1926.761(b). Workers engaged in roofing activities were not trained.

Apex Roofing and WW Restoration currently face $159,118 in penalties. The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Alabama Code Chapter 8, Section 25-8-35 states, "No person under 16 years of age shall be employed, permitted, or suffered to work at any of the following occupations, positions, or places:

(9) In the building trades, except that persons 14 or 15 years of age who are members of the immediate family of the contractor may be employed in trades involving nonhazardous duties or occupations."

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