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Construction company cited for fall hazards

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A Texas steel erection company is facing $175,700 in proposed fines from federal health and safety regulators for exposing workers to fall hazards.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has inspected San Antonio-based W.S. Steel Erection L.L.C. five times in the past five years, including in 2011 after an employee fell 17 feet from a roof and later died, according to an agency news release issued on Tuesday.

The latest inspection began in December after an OSHA investigator saw one worker on a platform supported by a forklift and other employees working from an aerial lift, none of whom used fall prevention equipment, according to the agency.

OSHA cited the company for two repeat violations for exposing workers to fall hazards, with employees working from scaffolding more than 10 feet above a lower level without fall protection and others working from an aerial lift without a harness and lanyard attached to the lift's basket. The agency also issued six serious violations for not ensuring frequent and regular safety inspections were completed, workers used eye protection when operating powered hand tools and employees were trained and evaluated prior to operating a powered industrial truck, among other violations.

“W.S. Steel continues to expose its employees to the danger of fatal falls, despite the tragic death of one of its workers in a fall in 2011,” Casey Perkins, OSHA's area director in Austin, Texas, said in a statement. “We were fortunate that our investigator intervened this time and the workers at the site went home safely. We hope these citations will serve to remind this employer and others how dangerous falls are. In fact, they are a leading cause of deaths in the construction industry.”

A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.