The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the case of a 42-year-old construction worker who fell four stories to his death on July 22. According to reports, Fausto Flores was cutting a wooden handrail at a construction site when he fell.
According to OSHA in 1926.501(b)(1) – "Unprotected sides and edges" – “Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems.
Preliminary reports indicate there was no guardrail or personal fall arrest system in use by Flores.
An investigation by the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to take six to eight weeks to complete.
According to Chris Cannon, the spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, there have been 21 workplace fatalities in the state in 2017, and nearly half – 10 worker deaths – have been related to construction.
Briona Arradondo, a reporter for Nashville’s WSVM (News4) http://www.wsmv.com asked Cannon what the employer could have done to prevent Flores’ death. He told her that the use of a guardrail system might have saved Flores’ life.
"They must go along that edge and put a guardrail up all the way around there, so there are no unused edges they could possibly fall off,” Cannon told Arradondo.
In 1926.501(b)(2)(i), OSHA requires that “Each employee who is constructing a leading edge 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems.”
The agency does make an exception if “the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems.” In those cases, “the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.”
The agency further states: “There is a presumption that it is feasible and will not create a greater hazard to implement at least one of the above-listed fall protection systems. Accordingly, the employer has the burden of establishing that it is appropriate to implement a fall protection plan which complies with 1926.502(k) for a particular workplace situation, in lieu of implementing any of those systems.”