The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the governmental agency responsible for workplace safety, fined Painting & Decorating Inc., a Ronkonkoma based painting and stucco contractor, $460,350 for chronic and repeated fall and scaffolding violations in December 2013. The Long Island company received 10 citations and fines totaling $429,600. Over the past several years, the company has received similar citations at five other worksites. The citations included failing to inspect scaffolding for defects before workers used them. In addition, the company was cited for missing planks and cross bracing on scaffolding. OHSA inspectors also noted that the company failed to provide fall protection equipment for workers and didn’t adequately restrain scaffolding to prevent it from tipping.
In addition, the company received five new citations and fines totally $30,690. One citation stated that the company failed to provide fall protection for workers while they were putting up scaffolding. The company also erected scaffolding on unsound footing. OSHA inspectors also observed that workers were climbing up cross bracing to access the scaffolding, and they were not wearing any eye protection. As a result of the violations, the company was placed on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which requires more OSHA inspections.
Commenting on the citations, Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA’s Long Island area director, stated, “The sizable fines proposed reflect the ongoing failure and refusal for this employer to provide basic safeguards for its employees. Workers have repeatedly been exposed to deadly and disabling falls and crushing injuries. In this case, workers were exposed to falls of more than 26 feet.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), construction workers make up seven percent of the national workforce. However, the construction industry had the second highest fatality rate of all occupations. Most of these fatalities were the result of falls. In many cases, construction workers either fell from a roof, scaffold, or ladder. In response to these fatal accidents, the CDC and OSHA announced the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction from June 2 through June 6, 2014. During this event employers were encouraged to take the time to train and talk to employees about fall hazards and safety.
While falls are the leading cause of deaths and injuries in the construction industry, companies can take three simple steps to prevent such accidents. First, employers must plan jobs with safety in mind. Companies must consider the types of safety equipment that will be needed to complete a job. Second, companies must provide workers with safety equipment, such as personal fall arrest systems. Finally, employers must train workers about how to use safety equipment and identify potential safety hazards in order to prevent dangerous falls.