LeMaster Steel Erectors Inc., an Elkhart, Ind., steel erecting company, and two company officials were sentenced this week following guilty pleas to charges that they made false statements to OSHA investigators during the investigation of the death of an employee in Mason, Ohio in 1996.
Officials of the company previously entered a guilty plea on behalf of the corporation to a charge that the firm willfully violated federal fall protection regulations and caused the death of the worker.
On Aug. 9, 1996, a LeMaster construction worker fell more than 25 feet from the roof of the building under construction and died when he hit the concrete foundation below.
On July 14, 1999, foreman Ronald Lee Creighton, 38, of Sardinia, Ohio, pled guilty to making false statements to OSHA investigators. On Oct. 22, Creighton received a sentence of four months in prison, three years supervised release, and $1,100 in fines.
OSHA Regional Administrator Michael G. Connors said that Creighton's false statements to OSHA indicated that fall protection was in place prior to the accident when in fact it was installed after the accident occurred in an effort to mislead OSHA inspectors.
"The case underscores the need to ensure that proper fall protection and safety equipment is provided and the need for all employers and employer representatives to be forthright and honest during any OSHA or other government inspection or investigation," said Connors.
On Monday, LeMaster Steel Safety Director Michael A. Onyon, 44, of Goshen, Ind., and Regional Manager Jay Holloman, 41, West Chester, Ohio, were each sentenced to six months imprisonment, three years supervised probation and fined $2,000 by U.S. District Court Judge Sandra S. Beckwith.
In addition to the company officials' sentences, LeMaster Steel was fined $300,000 and placed on five years probation, the maximum allowed by law.
Terms of that probation include the company must notify OSHA when opening any new jobsite and must conduct a job site safety analysis at each site.
Additionally, the firm must adhere to stricter fall protection measures. OSHA standards call for fall protection at 25 feet for steel erection. LeMaster must take fall protection measures at six feet above the ground.
"This is a particularly tragic and flagrant case where the employer not only failed to adequately protect its workers, but then tried to deceive OSHA in the investigation of a fatality," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "OSHA did not hesitate to seek criminal prosecution and we will continue to seek prosecution in any case where an employer deliberately lies to us."