Safety and OSHA News

Employee falls 37 feet onto co-worker; $189K in fines

Oregon OSHA says workers for this construction company were exposed to hazards that could cause death or serious injury as they worked to restore the Ross Island Bridge in Portland. 

An employee was working on an upper deck of a suspended scaffolding system when he fell through a ladder opening, landing on an employee who was working 37 feet below on a lower platform. Both employees suffered multiple injuries.

Oregon OSHA says the employee who fell wasn’t using protective gear. The agency fined Abhe & Svoboda Inc., based in Minnesota, $189,000 for nine violations.

The employer received two willful violations for failure to:

  • provide proper access to work area, which forced employees to climb structures and step over holes, and
  • follow bracing requirements for scaffolding

It was also fined for seven serious violations for failure to:

  • provide fall protection to eight employees
  • set up, dismantle and move the scaffolds and related components under the direction of a competent person
  • provide rest platforms while climbing 37-foot ladders
  • ensure employees had a work platform that was at least 18 inches wide
  • install anchorages for fall protection equipment under the supervision of a competent person
  • inspect scaffolds for visible defects before each work shift by a competent person, and
  • prohibit use of a makeshift device (a wooden step stool) on platforms to increase the working height of employees.

A press release from the state of Oregon says during the investigation, the corporate safety manager for Abhe & Svoboda spoke dismissively of the state’s workplace safety rules, saying they change too much.

“Each and every year, falls are one of the major sources of serious injury and death in Oregon workplaces,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. “There is never a good reason to ignore the need to protect workers from such hazards. Yet, this employer brushed off time-tested fall protection rules that are designed to prevent injuries or deaths.”

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