Margarito Guardado Resinos, 34, and Nelson Pineda were working together to erect a pre-engineered steel building frame at a construction site in San Marcos, TX. The two were employed by Jetka Steel Erectors of Katy, TX, a firm hired by Bailey Elliot Construction of Austin to erect a new building for Thermon Manufacturing at the central Texas location. (I moved to San Marcos, TX last fall and the Thermon facility is on the service road for I-35, only a few miles from my home.) Just before noon on July 27, 2011 the metal structure collapsed, killing Mr. Resinos and injurying Mr. Pineda.
Less than 90 days earlier, OSHA cited the men’s employer for four serious violations of safety standards and proposed a $12,000 penalty. The violations included failing to provide adequate fall protection with the inspector noting:
“Each employee engaged in a steel erection activity who was on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet (4.6 m) above a lower level was not protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems or fall restraints systems.”
The inspector also indicated that Jetka’s employees had not received appropriate training with respect to fall hazards and methods to prevent injuries associated with them.
OSHA’s on-line data system reports that Jetka reached an informal settlement with the agency just a few weeks before this fatal incident. OSHA agreed to reduce the $12,000 penalty to $6,100, and reclassify two of the serious violations to “other-than-serious.” The OSHA on-line data fails to tell us, however, what Jetka Steel Erectors committed to do for their end of the bargain. For example, did the employer simply agree to fix the deficiencies found during the OSHA inspection? or did the firm agree to examine and enhance its overall safety program? A comprehensive assessment would address not only the hazards identified in December 2010 inspection, but all relevant hazards related to their steel erection business. Ideally, the assessment would have involved front-line workers and managers to identify existing and potential hazards, and implement steps to control or eliminate them through equipment and supply improvements, job redesign, training and the like.
I’ve asked OSHA’s Dallas office on July 30 for a copy of the agency’s settlement agreement with Jetka. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to report back to you on what the employer and OSHA put in place (or not) which might have prevented the death of 34 year old Margarito Guardado Resinos.
[Update: I was just about to publish this post when I received an email from the Labor Department's Office of Public Affairs in Dallas instructing me to send a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to OSHA's office in Corpus Christi, Texas. The message indicated that my request could be sent by FAX or snail mail (not email) and noted "Let me emphasize that the request must be signed to be valid." I'm away from my office this week; I'm off to find a printer and fax machine so I can send in the signed FOIA request.]