- OSHA has fined Phoenix contractors Design Plastering, Inc., and Design Plastering West, LLC, of Phoenix, a total of $407,400 for eight egregious willful and four serious violations in connection to a May 2015 fall that killed a worker on one of their Texas work sites.
- Worker Jorge Carrion Torres, 44, fell from the third-floor balcony of an apartment complex where he was applying a stucco underlayment to the balcony walls. Neither Design Plastering nor Design Plastering West had installed scaffolding or provided Torres, or any other employees, with personal fall protection, according to OSHA.
- The state OSHA in Arizona had previously cited Design Plastering seven times for fall-related hazards.
This incident comes in the wake of another in Houston, in which OSHA fined an employer $367,000 for denying a safety harness to an employee who eventually fell through a roof and was severely injured. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in five deaths in private industry last year were in construction, and falls accounted for nearly 40% of construction fatalities.
"When an employer fails to put up a guardrail or scaffolding, or doesn't provide personal fall-arrest systems, anyone working at a height of six feet or more is defenseless against a fall. OSHA will not tolerate this kind of employer behavior," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said as part of OSHA’s statement for the Arizona case.
"This senseless loss of a man's life is the result of this employer's failure to comply with clear OSHA safety requirements despite the fact that it had been previously cited for the same violations," Michaels said. "Design Plastering has been cited for $5,850 in the past for fall hazard related violations. Clearly, these penalties were not sufficient to deter this employer's unlawful actions."
Last week, a "little-noticed" provision in the budget bill signed by President Obama raised federal OSHA fines for workplace safety violations for the first time in 25 years. The measure — which brings penalties in line with inflation increases since 1990 — also requires future OSHA and state agency penalty hikes to continue to rise with inflation.