- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday that a U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of Texas has ordered a drywall contractor with a construction license and limited liability company registered in New Mexico and a Phoenix corporate address, Design Plastering West, to pay a $150,000 criminal fine and a $100,000 civil penalty for a safety violation that led to an employee's death. As part of its sentence, Design Plastering West pleaded guilty to one fall protection violation, agreed to admit to a total of eight willful violations and submit to four years of monitoring by an OSHA compliance expert.
- In May 2015, Jose Carrion Torres was performing stucco work on a project in Dallas when he fell 23 feet to his death from a third-floor balcony that had no fall protection in place. According to prosecutors, Design Plastering West admitted that failing to provide fall protection on that job led to Torres' death.
- OSHA proposed fines in excess of $400,000 for the company about six months after the accident. The agency issued four serious and eight willful violation citations, each associated with fines ranging from $4,200 for not providing the proper personal protective equipment to $49,000 for allowing employees to work on surfaces at heights of six feet or more without the protection of guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems.
More jurisdictions have started to pursue criminal charges against construction companies that don't take the appropriate measures to protect their workers while on the job rather than leaving it up to OSHA to deal with them through inspections and fines. Safety should always be a priority, but this is an extra incentive for contractors to make sure they're following the rules when it comes to protecting their employees.
Earlier this month, New York's SSC High Rise Construction pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the 2017 death of one of its workers on a Manhattan jobsite. SSC was performing work on a new condominium project when employee Juan Chonillo fell 29 stories from a construction platform that SSC was attempting to move with a crane. The platform had become stuck, and Chonillo removed his harness in an attempt to help free the platform. New York City building codes prohibit moving unsecured platforms while people are on top unless advance notice is given to the city's Department of Buildings.
Earlier this year, prosecutors in King County, Washington, charged Phillip Numrich, owner of Seattle's Alki Construction, with second-degree manslaughter in relation to a 2016 trench-collapse death. It's the first time that a Washington employer has been charged with a felony for a workplace death.