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An administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed a citation against a construction company after a worker was seriously injured in a ladder fall but vacated the second in a final decision released Wednesday.
In Secretary of Labor v. Guaranteed Home Improvements LLC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued citations totaling $5,684 to Hales Corners, Wisconsin-based construction firm Guaranteed Home Improvements LLC after a 2019 incident.
The company had been contracted to perform roof repairs on a convenience store during the winter in Madison, Wisconsin. On the day of the accident, the company owner set up an extension ladder and fall protection to allow his crew to access the roof. While one crew member was descending the ladder, the ladder slipped forward and fell to the ground, taking the crew member with it. The workers sustained multiple injuries, which included a broken femur, ribs, pelvis and head trauma.
A safety compliance officer inspected the worksite and reviewed the store’s surveillance footage, which had recorded the incident. He issued two serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act after concluding that the owner violated standards addressing ladder safety by failing to extend the side rails of the ladder at least three feet above the upper landing of the roof and placing the ladder at an inappropriate angle and failing to secure it against accidental displacement.
The construction company appealed the serious citations. Guaranteed Home said that its ladder was set up to extend three feet above the surface of the roof, and argued that the measurements taken by the inspector were not accurate, and “given the small margin for error” fail to meet the burden of proof.
The administrative law judge vacated that citation, finding that she could not confirm the accuracy of the inspector’s measurements — taken with a tape measure as the ladder lay on the ground after the incident — and that it is not implausible based on the video that the rails of the ladder were above the landing surface of the roof as required.
The judge did, however, affirm the second citation and its penalty of $2,800 for using the ladder in icy and slippery conditions and failing to secure it to prevent accidental displacement.
The judge noted that the parking lot and sidewalk at the convenience store were wet with patches of snow and ice, and surveillance footage showed the bottom of the ladder sliding twice before the incident, supporting the inspector’s conclusion that Guaranteed Home set the ladder on a slippery surface in violation of OSHA standards.
The judge held that a “preponderance of the evidence” established that the ladder was not secured at the base, did not have slip-resistant feet, and that the company had knowledge of the condition and affirmed the citation and accompanying penalty of $2,800.
A construction company that failed to provide fall protection on several occasions, one resulting in the death of a worker who fell 22 feet while building homes in St. Petersburg, Florida, must pay a $101,399 fine, an administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruled Thursday.