Workers die on the job, prevention tools often disregarded

It was just about this time last year when then Senate-candidate Dr. Rand Paul (R-KY) responded to a question about the 29 workers killed in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine disaster and government’s role in enforcing workplace safety regulations. Dr. Paul said

“…a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things do happen, no matter what the regulations are?”

That view “accident just happen,” runs counter to public health community’s evidence that many traumatic, chronic and fatal injuries can be prevented. Investigations of work-related fatalities in particular—whether conducted by a labor-management safety committee, a safety consultant, or State or federal OSHA officials—-consistently reveal that the majority of fatal incidents could have been averted had longstanding, basic safety practices, that is, REGULATIONS, been followed.

I examined data available from the US Labor Department on the 25 reported on-the-job fatalities, occurring during the week of August 1, 2010. I identify many in which prevention tools and well-established safety procedures were disregarded. I’ll lay them out below and you can judge for yourself the accuracy of (now) Senator Paul’s sentiment that “accident just happen.”

First a word about the Labor Department’s on-line data for the week of August 1, 2010. First, although 2010 was the worst year on record since 2001 for fatalities in the mining industry (i.e., 71 deaths) there were no mine-worker fatalities during that week. Second, whenever possible I tried to include the name and age of the deceased worker. This information is not provided by OSHA in its on-line data, so I rely on USMWF’s Weekly Toll and local newspapers’ death notices. When I was unable to locate the deceased worker’s name, I simply say “a worker” and hope that family, friends, co-workers or OSHA will provide it below in the comment section.**

A worker involved in steel erection at a site in Atlantic Beach, Florida was killed on August 1, 2010 when he fell many feet to his death. Federal OSHA investigated the fatality and cited Cardinal Building Systems, Inc. for one serious violation of 1926.501(b)(10), for failing to provide fall protection for workers on low-slope roofs, and one other-than-serious violation for failing to notify OSHA within 8 hours of the worker’s death. OSHA proposed a penalty of $7,600, and the amount was reduced to $5,000 as part of an informal settlement with the employer. The case was closed on May 26, 2011.


Baltazar Santana, 48, fell 35 feet from a tree while working for Hardwood Tree Service Corp. on August 3, 2010 in New Jersey. OSHA investigated the fatality and issued one serious violation of the general duty clause (Section 5(a)(1)) and proposed a penalty of $2,100. The company contested and the case remains open.

Larry Dean Finkbeiner, 62, was killed on August 3, 2010 in South Dakota when the trench he was in caved-in. Federal OSHA investigated the fatality and issued five serious violations to Mackaben Excavating, LLC, including failing to follow basic trench safety rules, such providing a means of egress into the trench, protection from loose rock or soil, having a competent person perform a daily inspection of the excavation site to check for possible cave-ins, failure of protective system, etc. Federal OSHA proposed a penalty of $10,500 and the company contested the citations and penalty. The case remains open.

Carl Boitnott, 43, was killed during a painting job on August 3, 2010 when the aerial lift he was on made contact with an electrical wire. Mr. Boitnott was helping his brother with the job in Missouri and was not an employee. Federal OSHA did not investigate.

Eight workers were fatally injured at the Hartford Distributors, Inc. facility in Manchester, CT on August 3, 2010 when a former co-worker shot them and then turned the gun on himself. The victims were William Ackerman, 51; Brian Cirigliano, 51; Francis Fazio Jr., 57; Louis Felder Jr., 50; Victor James, 59; Edwin Kennson Jr., 49; Craig Pepin, 60; and Doug Scrutum, 56. The former worker and shooter was Omar Thornton. Federal OSHA investigated the incident and did not issue any citations. A memorial to the workers is expected to be ready by the one year anniversary date.

A worker, employed by ABC Professional Tree Services in Texas, was piling up tree limbs and collapsed possibly from heat stroke. Federal OSHA investigated the August 4, 2010 incident and proposed a penalty of $7,000 for violating the “general duty” to provide a safe workplace. The company contested the citation and the case remains open.

Joseph Dixon, 33 and Kevin Maddox II, 25 were laying concrete inside the Ohio Fresh Egg complex on August 4, 2010 in Ohio when the building collapsed due to high winds. Federal OSHA investigated and issued four serious violations including failing to have a competent person prepare an engineering survey for a demolition project, and failing to have an emergency action plan. Federal OSHA proposed a penalty of $13,200. Through an informal settlement with the employer, Creative Masonry, the penalty was reduced to $7,920.

Keith J. LaFountaine, 18 was killed on August 4, 2010 in Ohio when a block wall collapsed on him during a storm. Federal OSHA investigated and cited Hofmann Construction, Inc. for failing to adequately brace the concrete wall. OSHA proposed a $4,200 penalty, but through an informal settlement, the amount was reduced to $2,940. The case is closed.

A worker employed by American Mobile Home Service was killed on August 4, 2010 in Texas while working on a double-wide mobile home. The jack holding up the structure failed and the mobile home crushed him. Federal OSHA investigated and cited his employer, George Ruiz, with two serious violations, including failing to train employees and control or eliminate hazards, and one other-than-serious violation for failing to notify OSHA within 8 hours of the worker’s death. OSHA proposed a penalty of $3,600, and the case remains open.

Cody Fyock, 23, was killed on August 4, 2010 when a wall at a water treatment plant in Pennsylvania collapsed on him. Federal OSHA investigated and cited his employer, Jack Gibson Construction Company, with five serious violations, including failing to have a competent person conduct frequent and regular inspections of the jobsite, materials and equipment; failing to provide adequate training to the worker(s) in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions; and failing to provide proper formwork for cast-in-place concrete. OSHA proposed a penalty of $35,000. The employer contested the citations and penalty and the case remains open.

Brandan Kalmerton, 26,
was killed on August 4, 2010 in Wisconsin when the trench he was working in caved-in on him. Federal OSHA investigated and issued four serious violations related to trench safety, including failing to provide protection from loose rock or soil; failing to have a competent person perform a daily inspection of the excavation site to check for possible cave-ins, failure of protective system, etc.; and failing to use and maintain the support system in a manner consistent with the manufacturers recommendations. OSHA proposed a penalty of $13,200. Through an informal settlement, one of the violations was deleted and the penalty reduced to $9,000.

A worker employed by Premier Timber Products in Texas died on the job on August 5, 2010 after reportedly complaining about being overheated. Federal OSHA investigated and issued three serious violations related to lockout/tagout; guarding of woodworking machinery, and; inadequate first-aid, as well as one other-than-serious violation for injury recording. Federal OSHA proposed a penalty of $3,750; the case is still open.

A 44-year old worker employed by Nexus Group was killed on August 4, 2010 when he was electrocuted during the installation of a fiber optic cable. TN-OSHA investigated and cited the company for two serious violations, including failing to protect telecommunications workers from making contact with energized overhead power lines. TN-OSHA proposed a penalty of $5,200; the case is closed.

Jack Muransky, 58, was killed on August 5, 2010 in Colorado while operating a boring auger machine. Federal OSHA cited the employer, B Trenchless, for three serious violations, including failing to provide an adequate protective system during excavation. OSHA proposed a penalty of $3,900; the case is closed.

Jonathan Hudson, 29, was killed on August 5, 2010 n Montana on a road construction project when he was struck by a dump truck. Federal OSHA investigated and issued three serious and two other-than-serious violations to Riverside Contracting, including for operating a vehicle with an obstructed view and failing to have accident prevention systems. OSHA proposed a penalty of $10,500. The company contested and the case remains open.

Mary Schuh, 27, was killed on August 5, 2010 in Montana while working for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. She was using an all-terrain vehicle to collect soil samples; the ATV struck a boulder and overturned on top of her. Federal OSHA investigated and identified two serious and one other-than-serious violation, including failing to provide a helmet, and failing to report the fatality to OSHA within 8 hours of the worker’s death. Because her employer is a federal agency, no monetary penalties were assessed. The case is closed.

A worker employed by CB Ellis was killed on the job on August 6, 2010 while working at an Ohio property owned by the Cleveland Clinic. The employer was cited for eight serious violations, including failing to have an effective lockout/tagout program, safe work practices, personal protective equipment, and training. OSHA proposed a penalty of $56,000. CB Ellis contested the citations and penalty; the case remains open.

A worker employed by Davenport Transportation Inc. was killed on August 6, 2010 in North Carolina when he was struck by a semi truck. NC-OSHA investigated and issued one serious violation of the “general duty” clause, and three other-than-serious violations. NC-OSHA proposed a penalty of $4,900. Through an informal settlement, the penalty was reduced to $3,600.

A worker employed by Grace Utility was killed on the job in Texas on August 6, 2010 after being overcome by toxic gases inside a manhole. Federal OSHA investigated and issued five serious violations, including for failing to follow safety procedures related to confined spaces. OSHA proposed a penalty of $7,500. The company contested and the case remains open.

Like very week in the U.S., the week of August 1, 2010 was a deadly one for workers. How much credence do you put now in claims that work-related accidents “just happen”??

**Note: Federal OSHA posts on its website the bare minimum information about fatal worker injuries and the results of its inspections. In conttrast, OSHA’s sister agency MSHA posts information like this, and this, and this for nearly every fatality it investigates. The best OSHA has been able to muster so far is information like this.

Comments

  1. #1 Art
    June 8, 2011

    You forget that, libertarian goon he is, Ryan considers workplace safety as a function of the employer-employee contract in which the employee agrees to the existing standards and conditions of the workplace when they ask to be hired. That their sole legitimate option, outside what he considers illegitimate government interference, OSHA, is to not ask for the job, or to quit.

    In Libertarian thinking the inherent conflict between starving, or watching your kids starve, and risking your life and limb at an unsafe workplace is just a symptom of excess labor. Given enough time, dedication to Libertarian dogma, and a strong stomach for both dead employees and poor people falling dead in the gutters, the unfortunate condition is self-correcting. The removal of excess labor, as it where, forces employers to improve worker safety without any government action.

    Sounds good if this was a game of SIMs where the people are virtual representations who don’t bleed or suffer. Sounds good if you are, as so many libertarians seem to be, sensitive to external controls, rules and regulations; while lacking all internal controls, empathy and compassion.

  2. The OSHA standards for trenching and excavation work (which can be accessed at http://www.competentpersontraining.net/oshaexcavationstandards.html) require a “competent person” at the excavation site. Usually find there is no competent person in most cases like this.

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