OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.

OSHA’s David Michaels Takes a Bold Step; Suggests UPS Holds Contractor Accountable for Safety

Aug. 2, 2016
A worker for Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services fell 22 feet to his death four months after the company was cited for failing to provide fall protection at a United Parcel Service (UPS) jobsite.

Four months after federal safety investigators cited his employer for failing to provide workers with fall protection at a UPS facility in Addison, Ill., a 42-year-old employee of Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services fell 22 feet to his death at the same location. OSHA has issued $320,000 in fines to the Louisville, Ky.-based employer, claiming it shows a “serial disregard of fall protection.”

Although he didn't do it by name, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels called out United Parcel Service (UPS) and other companies that have contracts with Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services, requesting they demand the company improve its safety performance.

On July 29, OSHA cited the employer for three egregious, willful violations for exposing workers to falls over 6 feet, after its investigation of the Feb. 9 fatality. OSHA also issued citations for three repeated and three serious safety violations.

“A man is dead because this employer decided to break the law over and over again,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor/OSHA. “Before this tragedy, OSHA cited this contractor twice for exposing workers to fall hazards, including at the same site just four months earlier.”

OSHA cited Material Handling Systems for fall protection violations in October 2015 at the same job site. In 2014, OSHA cited the company for similar violations after an employee suffered serious injuries in a fall in Keasby, N.J.. The employer also received fall protection citations in 2009 in Oregon and 2012 in Florida. The company’s workers’ compensation carrier is Old Republic Insurance Co. of Greensburg, Pa.

“OSHA is asking companies contracting with Material Handling Systems to take strong steps to ensure that this employer protects its employees, and terminate its contracts if this employer continues to violate OSHA regulations,” said Michaels. “Material Handling Systems employer must demonstrate it can work safely and stop injuring its employees.”

Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services removes and installs high-speed conveyor systems. In this case, the company was working under a multi-million-dollar contract with United Parcel Service to dismantle existing conveyor systems and install new, high-speed conveyors at UPS’s Addison facility.

Based in Louisville, Ky., Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services faces total proposed penalties of $320,400. OSHA also found Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical:

Exposed other workers to falls of up to 22 feet as they hoisted conveyor equipment while working on raised surfaces with unprotected sides. Failed to determine whether walking and working surfaces could structurally support employees.

Allowed workers to use a combustible polyethylene tarp as a welding curtain, which created a serious fire hazard.

View current citations here.

Preventable falls account for nearly 40 percent of all deaths in the construction industry. Federal safety and health officials are determined to reduce the number of preventable, fall-related deaths in the construction industry. OSHA offers a Stop Falls online resource with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page provides fact sheets, posters and videos that illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures. OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.

Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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