Worker Survives 80-Foot Fall: OSHA Cites Employer for Hazards

Feb. 13, 2012
Luck was with a worker on Sept. 28, 2011, when he fell 80 feet to a lower level from the top of a 118-foot-high scaffold and survived. The same can’t be said of masonry contractor Navillus Contracting Tile Inc., which was cited by OSHA for alleged repeat and serious violations of safety standards at the Brooklyn, N.Y. worksite.

“This employee is fortunate to have escaped death, but what is unfortunate is that this fall occurred in the first place,” said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. “It is effective scaffold maintenance, work practices and fall protection – not luck – that are essential to protecting workers against life-threatening falls.”

An inspection by OSHA’s Manhattan Area Office found that the scaffold platform was not fully planked and lacked guardrails, an aluminum access platform was not secured against displacement, another worker was not tied off to a safe anchorage point and employees accessed work areas by climbing up and down the scaffold frames. These conditions resulted in citations for six serious violations, with $36,000 in proposed fines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

One repeat violation with a proposed fine of $38,500 involves a lack of guardrails. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously was cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last 5 years. OSHA cited Navillus in September 2008 for a similar hazard at a Bronx worksite.

“To prevent hazards such as these, employers should implement effective illness and injury prevention programs in which they work continuously with their employees to identify and eliminate hazards,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

Detailed information on scaffolding hazards and safeguards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/scaffolding/index.html.

Navillus has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with Gee or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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