A federal judge in Missouri has fined a Kansas City, MO, steel erection company $500,000 for a safety violation that led to a worker's fatal fall in 2014, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.
Chief U.S. District Judge Greg Kays imposed the penalty after he found DNRB, doing business as Fastrack Erectors, guilty earlier this year of failing to provide adequate fall protection for its workers. The 22-year-old worker was handling roof decking sheet metal at a Kansas City job site when he fell 30 feet to his death.
Kays said project foremen should have seen the lack of proper fall-protection equipment. The judge ordered DNRB to pay $25,000 each quarter until the fine is paid in full.
Operating at elevated heights, whether it be for roofing, ironwork, painting or a multitude of other trades, creates the potential for a deadly or damaging fall. As a result, ensuring that workers are using the proper fall-protection equipment — and that employers are providing it — is a top priority of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA reports that falls are the leading cause of accidental death in the construction industry.
Although the Trump administration has pulled back on OSHA's practice of issuing press releases announcing violations and fines, breaches of fall-protection standards can still earn a company public reprimand. In August, OSHA called attention to a Florida roofer that had amassed a series of fall-protection citations. OSHA fined the company more than $1.5 million and added it to the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, under which the company will be subject to extra scrutiny.
Enforcement of fall-prevention standards can be tough, regardless of the incident's circumstances.
Late last year, prosecutors charged a California crane operator with involuntary manslaughter in the death of his son and another worker. Mark Powell used a dilapidated crane to lift his son and a co-worker so they could repair a second crane. Both workers died when the bucket in which they were standing separated from the crane and fell 80 feet to the ground.
Cal-OSHA also levied a fine of $106,110 against Powell. In May, a judge dropped the involuntary manslaughter count, but Powell still faces two felony charges of violating safety standards.