Falling for Fines: OSHA Cites Companies for Safety Failures

Aug. 3, 2016
Dr. David Michaels warns against one company after a worker’s death, equipment modification leads to another fatality.

While OSHA and NIOSH continue to educate employers about safety hazards with its Fall Prevention Program, some companies remain complacent about exposing workers to these risks.

OSHA released numerous citations handed out to construction companies for safety violations regarding crane operation, machine guarding and lack of fall prevention. Here is a roundup of the most recent penalties.

ILLINOIS -The most egregious of the safety failures contributed the death of a worker after OSHA already had cited the company just four months earlier.

A 42-year-old employee of Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services, fell 22 feet to his death at an Addison, Ill. at a United Parcel Service facility after OSHA cited the company for failing to provide workers with fall protection. Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services faces total proposed penalties of $320,400.

"A man is dead because this employer decided to break the law over and over again,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary of labor, in a statement.

On July 29, 2016, OSHA cited the employer for three willful violations for exposing workers to falls over 6 feet, after its investigation of the Feb. 9, 2016, fatality.

OSHA cited Material Handling Systems most recently for fall protection violations in October 2015 at the same jobsite.

"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,” Michaels said. “Material Handling Systems employer must demonstrate it can work safely and stop injuring its employees."

In this case, the company was working under a multi-million contract with United Parcel Service to dismantle existing conveyor systems and install new, high-speed conveyors.

MISSISSIPPI – A Biloxi, Miss. contractor is facing $42,200 in fines after exposing employees to to fall hazards up to 12 feet while installing siding at an apartment complex.

OSHA cited Center Stage for three willful and four serious safety violations. The agency opened the inspection under its Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction.

The company allowed workers to use nail guns without eye protection, failed to install baseplates on scaffolding, did not have a knowledgeable person to inspect scaffolding and did not train workers about the hazards associated with scaffolding.

"Center Stage failed to fulfill its legal obligation to protect employees at the workplace from dangerous falls and other serious hazards," said Joseph Roesler, OSHA's area director in Mobile, Ala. "The employer needs to assess its safety program and take corrective action to protect workers."

NEW JERSEY - RCS Construction received $42,200 in citations after a compliance officer filed a complaint with OSHA about hazards associated with crane operation and the lack of machine guarding.

OSHA issued citations to the New Jersey company for 26 serious and three other-than-serious health and safety violations.

Some of the violations include exposure to hazardous chemicals and struck-by and electrical hazards, hazards related to cranes, obstructed exit routes and missing exit signs, lack of machine guarding and forklift maintenance and training and the absence of a hazard communication program.

RCS Construction also failed to inform employees about how to use respirators safely, identify fire extinguisher locations and use relocatable power taps properly which all resulted in other-than-serious violations.

ARKANSA – A crane boom broke free and crushed an employee at  a B C Main Construction site in March 2016. A subsequent investigation has discovered numerous safety violations.

OSHA issued $46,200 in citations for 13 serious violations to B C Main Construction including making sure a qualified person inspected repaired equipment to ensure the repair met the manufacturer's criteria, failing to ensure a registered professional engineer, familiar with the equipment, signed procedures related to the capacity of the equipment; and failing to have procedures on the operation of the equipment in the crane's cab at all times for use by the operator.

In addition, the company lacked maintenance and repair personnel who met the definition of a qualified person for the equipment, and the maintenance and repair tasks performed.

The equipment itself was missing the manufacturer’s original warning labels and B C Main also made modifications or additions unapproved by the manufacturer that affected the safe operation of the equipment.

"If the law had been followed, a man's life would not have been taken cruelly and his family would have been spared their grief,” said Carlos Reynolds, OSHA's area director in Little Rock.

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