Safety and OSHA News

$407K OSHA fine for construction worker’s fatal fall

This company has been cited seven times before for fall-related hazards. Now OSHA has issued a hefty penalty to the firm in connection with an employee’s fatal fall in May. 

Jorge Carrion Torres, 44, died from a fall off a third-story balcony on May 14, 2015 in Texas. He’d been on the job one month.

On the day he died, he’d been applying material to balcony walls. His employer, Design Plastering Inc., hadn’t installed scaffolding nor had it provided Torres or his co-workers with personal fall protection, OSHA said.

OSHA has issued 12 violations to Design Plastering – eight egregious willful and four serious – involving lack of PPE and fall protection:

  • Each employee on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge which was 6 feet or more above a lower level wasn’t protected from falling by the use of guard rail, safety net or personal fall arrest systems (8 egregious willful violations @ $49,000 each, $392,000 total)
  • Where employees provided their own protective equipment, the employer didn’t assure its adequacy, including proper maintenance and sanitation of such equipment (serious, $4,200)
  • Employer didn’t provide eye and head protection at no cost to employees who are exposed to eye and head injuries while using hand tools. Employees had to purchase their own safety glasses and hard hats (serious, $3,500)
  • Employer didn’t ensure that employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from falling or flying objects are protected by protective helmets (serious, $4,200), and
  • Employees weren’t provided with eye and face protection when machines or operations presented potential eye or face injury from physical, chemical or radiation agents (serious, $3,500).

“Design Plastering had been cited for $5,850 in the past for fall hazard related violations,” said OSHA chief David Michaels. “Clearly, these penalties were not sufficient to deter this employer’s unlawful actions.”

This is the second egregious case involving fall protection in Texas in recent months. In July, OSHA issued a six-figure fine to a construction company after a construction worker in Houston who was denied a safety harness suffered severe injuries when he fell through a roof.

Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for nearly 40% of 2014’s construction fatalities.

Design Plastering has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or appeal the findings to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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