Not an “accident”: Juan Carlos Reyes suffers fatal work-related injury in Harlingen, Texas

[Update 9/4/14 and 11/20/14 below ]

Juan Carlos Reyes, 35, suffered fatal traumatic injuries on Saturday, May 24 while working at a construction site located in Harlingen, Texas. News reports indicate:

  • A Marriott Hotel is being built at the site.
  • Reyes was on a [boom] lift moving supplies into a fourth floor window. Reyes fell to his death.
  • The general contractor of the hotel is Houston-based Matrix Builders.

The firm’s profile lists more than a dozen completed hotel construction projects in southeast Texas, including Comfort Inns, La Quinta Inns, Comfort Inn and Suites, and Candlewood Suites. The profile also notes that Matrix Builders’ president, Ritesh Patel, says he is “OSHA Certified.” The trouble is, there is no such thing as being “OSHA certified.” Individuals can become authorized OSHA trainers after completing two 26-hour OSHA courses. They receive a wallet card that reads “Authorized Construction Trainer,” not a designation they are “OSHA certified.”

Federal OSHA will conduct a post-fatality inspection of the construction site. If the agency’s inspectors identify violations of health or safety regulations, the company will be cited. OSHA records suggest the most recent inspection of Matrix Builders’ construction project was in May 2006 at a site in Webster, TX. The inspection was opened and closed on the same day. No citations were issued.

Each year, more than 500 workers in Texas are fatally injured on-the-job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 536 work-related fatalities in Texas during 2012 (most recent available data.) Nationwide, at least 4,628 workers suffered fatal traumatic injuries in 2012.

The AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report notes:

  • Texas has 98 OSHA inspectors to cover more than 525,000 workplaces.
  • The average penalty in Texas for a serious violation is $2,187.

OSHA has until mid-November to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole Juan Carlos Reyes’ life. It’s likely they’ll determine that his employer’s safety program was inadequate and Ramos’ death was preventable. It was no “accident.”

[Updated 9/4/2014: OSHA records indicate that Reyes’ employer was Angel’s AAA Electric.]

[Updated 11/20/2014: Here’s what OSHA concluded.]

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