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Plastering firm faces six-figure fine in worker's death

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A Phoenix dry wall contractor is looking at $407,000 in OSHA fines after its failure to provide scaffolding and personal fall protection resulted in the death of an employee.

Jorge Carrion Torres died after a fall from a third-story balcony as he was applying stucco underlayment to balcony walls during construction on the exterior of an apartment complex, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a statement. He had been on the job just one month.

His employers, Design Plastering Inc. and Design Plastering West L.L.C. of Phoenix, had not installed scaffolding nor provided Mr. Torres or his co-workers with personal fall protection, the agency said Tuesday in a statement.

OSHA cited the company for eight egregious and four serious violations.

“When an employer fails to put up a guardrail or scaffolding or doesn't provide personal fall-arrest systems, anyone working at a height of 6 feet or more is defenseless against a fall,” David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor, said in the statement. “OSHA will not tolerate this kind of employer behavior.”

Design Plastering had been cited seven times previously for allowing fall-related hazards and fined $5,850, according to the statement.

“This senseless loss of a man's life is the result of this employer's failure to comply with clear OSHA safety requirements despite the fact that it had been previously cited for the same violations,” Mr. Michaels said. “Clearly, these penalties were not sufficient to deter this employer's unlawful actions."

One in five private industry worker deaths in 2014 were in construction, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Falls are the No. 1 cause of construction worker deaths and accounted for nearly 40% of construction fatalities last year, according to the September report.

A company spokesperson could not be reached for comment.