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Fall protection citation upheld, penalty reduced

Fall protection citation

An administrative law judge upheld a citation levied against a construction company for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act but reduced the associated fine for participation in a site inspection program.

In Secretary of Labor v. All Wall Builders LLC, the judge held that East Syracuse, New York-based All Wall Builders LLC had committed a serious safety violation of the OSH Act’s fall protection standards in a decision released Monday.

On Aug. 29, 2017, a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety compliance officer observed potential violations of the OSH Act at a construction site in Cooperstown, New York, where All Wall employees were installing metal trusses on a building roof.

The OSHA inspector claimed that employees were working on a surface greater than six feet in height with an unprotected edge without using proper personal fall protection. Although the employees on the roof assisting with the truss installation were wearing harnesses, the inspector said at least two of the employees were not tied off to anything, even when they came directly to the roof edge to receive a guide a truss being mechanically lifted onto the roof. The inspector also claimed that two unconnected employees were walking the trusses over the roof. One of the employees admitted that he “probably” did not hook himself back up after changing locations or may have forgotten to attach his lanyard to the fall protection system. As a result, the administrative law judge found that the workers were exposed to the hazard.

The judge also found that All Wall had knowledge that the employees were exposed to the hazard. The investigator presented evidence that two supervisors were on the worksite on the day the alleged hazard was recorded, and that the company’s president was present on the day of the inspection operating a forklift and directing the raising of he trusses on the roof.

While the president testified that he did not know the employees were unconnected to the roof, the judge found that he failed to explain why the foreman did not recognize that the employees’ harnesses were not attached to the fall protection system. Although the judge did not believe the president to willfully ignoring the lack of fall protection, he noted that no supervisor was assigned to take reasonable steps to monitor safety and that the president failed to undertake “a careful and critical examination” of safety measures on the worksite

The judge also dismissed All Wall’s argument that unpreventable employee misconduct led to the violation, holding that even if the work rule was effectively communicating, the company presented no evidence that it inspected for safety violations or that there were consequences for infractions.

As a result, the judge affirmed the citation. However, after the company agreed to participate in a voluntary state site inspection program and followed up with recommendations on further training, he reduced the proposed penalty by $1,622, bringing the total penalty to $5,622.

The law judge’s decision became a final order of the review commission on Tuesday.

The attorneys for All Wall Builders declined to comment on the decision.



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