Once again, most of the biggest OSHA fines in the first quarter of 2020 were related to falls. Despite OSHA’s emphasis on detecting these types of violations, which are the leading cause of accidental deaths among construction workers, some employers still aren’t getting the message.
The issue of falls, as well as excavation and trenching accidents, were at the top of the agenda in the most recent meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH), which makes construction regulation recommendations to OSHA.
The panel of construction industry safety experts discussed ways that the agency could increase employer awareness with the tools available to them, such as letting employers know about training opportunities after issuing a fall-related citation; creating additional educations materials that can be used in the field; and using online courses to increase the level of both worker and employer training.
The committee also talked about how the "competent person" requirement could be supported by training that takes into consideration that each project is different and that the required competencies will vary.
DB Custom Carpentry LLC – Aurora, Illinois
Total Proposed Fines: $333,968
Status: Pending Abatement of Violations, Pending Penalty Payment
OSHA cited Aurora, Illinois, contractor DB Custom Carpentry LLC in February for exposing its workers to fall hazards on a project in Naperville, Illinois, in August 2019. The safety agency said DB committed three willful and one repeat violations and proposed total fines of $333,968.
OSHA reported that when its inspectors visited DB's jobsite, they saw two workers sheeting a residential roof without the required fall protection. In addition, the agency also cited DB for not training employees on fall protection procedures, failure to provide safety glasses and hardhats and for not ensuring that its employees wore them.
OSHA Chicago South Area Office Director Kathy Webb said that DB has a history of violations, particularly in the area of fall protection. An establishment search of the OSHA database revealed that the agency cited DB in November 2018 for fall-related violations and fined the contractor $68,715. Those penalties have been referred to debt collection.
Multiple Contractors – Hard Rock Hotel, New Orleans
Total Proposed Fines: $315,536
Status: Pending Abatement of Violations, unless noted below
Immediately after a partial collapse at the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans project, OSHA launched an investigation into several contractors who were working on the site. Three workers were killed in the accident, and two bodies still remain inside the structure as the building has been deemed too unstable to demolish without a detailed plan, which is still in the works.
After more than four months of studying the events of that day, OSHA determined that one of the AEC firms, Heaslip Engineering LLC, had contributed to the collapse through flaws in the hotel's upper floor design and proposed fines for that alleged offense and other violations in the amount of $154,214. Of the firms under investigation, Heaslip came away with the largest penalty, which its attorney said the engineer would contest, but the agency cited and fined other companies as well.
Suncoast Projects LLC, dba Hub Steel ($37,191)
Citadel Builders LLC ($28,338)
REY.CO Inc. ($23,697) Status: Open
F. Mata Masonry LLC ($12,723)
King Company LLC ($12,145)
Hutco Inc. ($10,794)
Regional Mechanical Services LLC ($9,446)
Rush Masonry Inc. ($9,446)
Southern Services and Equipment Inc. ($9,446)
S&S Construction and Consulting LLC ($8,096)
Casey Bortles – Holland, Ohio
Total Proposed Fines: $242,534
Status: Violations Under Contest
OSHA said that its inspectors observed roofing contractor Casey Bortles' employees working without adequate fall and eye protection on a jobsite in Waterville, Ohio, in July 2019. The citations include one repeat and four willful violations for operating without an accident prevention program geared toward preventing eye injuries and preventing falls through the proper use of fall protection and ladders.
OSHA listed several previous occasions when it had cited Bortles for similar violations, thus the willful and repeat violations, which bring higher penalties. The agency fined Bortles on at least three other occasions — $85,362 in September 2018, $92,014 in July 2018 and $91,629 in December 2017. Those fines have been referred to debt collection.
Jamie Martinez Hernandez – Phenix City, Alabama
Total Proposed Fines: $240,880
Jamie Martinez Hernandez is a framing contractor based in Phenix, Alabama, and OSHA maintains that Hernandez exposed employees in August 2019 to fall and struck-by hazards at two Alabama worksites, one in Auburn ($127,226) and the other in Opelika ($113,654).
Agency inspectors said they saw Hernandez' employees working at heights without fall protection and that the contractor allowed workers to perform their duties without fall protection training. OSHA also said that workers were allowed to perform framing work without fall protection and also used pneumatic nail guns without eye protection. OSHA also cited Hernandez for ladder violations — letting employees use a ladder that did not extend at least 3 feet past the upper landing of a structure and allowing them to use the top step of an A-frame ladder.
OSHA said that it has cited Hernandez six times in the last five years for willful, repeat and serious violations of safety regulations pertaining to eye protection and fall prevention, as well as other fall-related hazards.
SGL Constructors – Maitland, Florida
Total Proposed Fines: $188,913
In March, OSHA cited SGL Constructors, a joint venture between Skanska USA, Granite Construction and The Lane Construction Corp., for the JV's work on the $2.3 billion, 21-mile I-4 Ultimate reconstruction project in Orlando, Florida, in relation to accidents that resulted in the death of one employee and injuries to another in September of 2019.
OSHA cited SGL with four serious violations in connection to the death of Ulises Corrales Ibarra, who was struck and killed by a concrete beam. Another worker was also hospitalized after the same incident. The agency said SGL exposed employees to struck-by hazards, did not provide the necessary training to workers and let its employees walk under a load while a crane was in motion. The fine related to this accident, resulting in the project's fifth worksite death, was $53,976.
The agency also cited and fined SGL for an unrelated accident that took place earlier in September when a worker was struck by a large metal pipe. This netted the company $134,937 in penalties and a willful violation for "stacking pipes in an unsecure manner on an uneven slope."
Though the project was far behind schedule, FDOT announced recently that the state's coronavirus-related stay-at-home order, which has alleviated traffic, allows the team to shave two months off its revised schedule.
Doug Underwood – Walnut Grove, Kentucky
Total Proposed Fines: $145,000
Status: Violations Under Contest
In January, OSHA cited contractor Doug Underwood with two willful and two other violations after one of his employees died in July 2019 while replacing gutter guards on a two-family residence. The agency fined Underwood a total of $145,000 as well.
OSHA citations to Underwood include violating 1926.501(b)(13), which requires that employees working on residential construction projects at heights of 6 feet or more above lower levels be protected by guardrail, safety net or personal fall arrest systems, and 1926.503(a)(1), which requires employers to provide required fall protection training to employees.