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An administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed citations against a construction subcontractor for violations of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s eye and fall protection standards and assessed $56,910 in total penalties.
R. K. Wallace Construction Inc., doing business as Wallace Steel Erectors, was a subcontractor on a project in Flowood, Mississippi, when OSHA inspected the site on Jan. 19, 2018, resulting in the issuance of a serious violation of OSHA’s eye protection standard and a repeat citation of OSHA’s fall protection standard, according to review commission documents. The OSHA compliance safety and health officer observed one of the company’s employees operating a hand angle grinder to cut metal without wearing appropriate eye or face protection, which exposed him to potential permanent eye injuries and burns to the skin or eye tissue as well other predictable serious injuries, including blindness. The officer also observed five employees working without being tied-off more than 15 feet above a concrete lower level, which exposed them to serious or permanent injuries such as broken bones, paralysis and death.
The citations were contested by the company, but the law judge found that the secretary of labor established the cited standards applied to the cited conditions, that the cited standards were violated, that the employees were exposed to the violative conditions and that the employer had knowledge of the conditions, according to review commission documents.
“A reasonable person familiar with the construction industry would recognize a significant risk of harm to an employee cutting metal using a hand angle grinder,” the law judge stated. “Further, a reasonable person familiar with the circumstances surrounding the hazardous condition would recognize a hazard requiring the use of protective eyewear.”
Wallace was previously cited for a violation of OSHA fall protection standard, and the law judge concluded the cited violations were substantially similar violations. That previous repeat citation — issued and abated in October 2016 — resulted in a $19,205 penalty being assessed, according to OSHA records, but repeat citations can carry significantly higher fines than serious citations.
The law judge’s decision became a final order of the review commission on Tuesday.
A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
U.S. federal workplace safety regulators have cited and proposed penalties totaling $91,629 against an Ohio roofing contractor for exposing employees to falls and other safety hazards.