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Refusal to supply safety harness results in $367000 fines

Aug 10, 2015 | Miscellaneous News

Despite his request for a safety harness, the temporary worker was working on a roof without fall protection and later fell 12 feet through the roof. His fall resulted in his hospitalization with fractured arms and severe contusions.

The employer, Cotton Commercial USA Inc of Katy, Texas, waited three days to report the injury, an investigation by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) found. Federal law requires employers to report such incidents within 24 hours.

OSHA fined Cotton Commercial US$362,500 for seven safety violations, including one willful and four willful egregious. The violations include failing to provide fall protection for four workers, failure to promptly report the hospitalisation of an employee resulting from a workplace incident and not training employees in the use of fall protection and ladders.

Gardia Construction, which provided the labourers to Cotton Commercial, received a citation for one serious violation and a fine of US$4,900, for failing to conduct frequent and regular inspections of the site where its labourers worked.

“Falls kill workers, but they are preventable,” said assistant secretary for occupational safety and health Dr David Michaels. “Cotton Commercial denied its workers the safety equipment they are required to provide, and the company intentionally waited several days to report the incident and misled OSHA’s inspectors.”

Staffing agencies and host employers in the USA are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers. This includes ensuring that OSHA’s training, hazard communications and record-keeping requirements are fulfilled. And for construction workers, this responsibility includes ensuring that frequent and regular inspections of worksites are conducted.

“Cotton Commercial was well aware of how to prevent safety hazard and, in fact, on the following day Cotton made sure all workers were provided with the required safety equipment. It shouldn’t have to take a serious injury for a company to comply with the law,” said OSHA Regional Administrator John Hermanson.

Cotton Commercial employs about 227 workers and operates throughout the USA. Gardia Construction, located in Gretna, Louisiana, employs about 80 workers and provides labour to Cotton Commercial.

Both employers have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s Houston South area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.