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Builder violated fall hazard rules, not OSHA’s general duty clause


A company that erects steel frames in construction violated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s fall protection standard when two of its workers were spotted not using the proper equipment during an inspection, an administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruled Tuesday.

OSHA, in responding to a complaint that workers with MPS Products Corp. were seen at a worksite in Rockland, Massachusetts, not properly using their harnesses to protect them from falls, cited the company for violating the fall protection standard and OSHA’s general duty clause that requires employers to maintain a hazard-free workplace, according to documents in Secretary of Labor v. MPS Products Corp., filed in Washington, D.C.

The two-item serious citation came with a proposed total penalty of $10,140, according to documents. The company contested the citation.

In a 47-page ruling, the administrative law judge wrote that a “review of the hearing record reveals that, in the period before and during the OSHA inspection, there were gaps in the execution of MPS’s Safety Program,” which the company argued had been sufficient. 

“Respondent had a safety rule requiring fall protection when working at fifteen (15) above a lower level. Respondent provided formal and informal fall protection training to employees,” the ruling states. “That said, Respondent also knew that serious fall protection violations previously had been observed on one of its worksites. … Respondent failed to enforce the fall protection safety rule and discipline the foreman and workers observed to have engaged in the unsafe conduct. The fall hazards cited in this case were known and foreseeable by Respondents.”

But the judge, in vacating the second part of the citation, wrote that “MPS did not violate the general duty clause” and that “MPS did not know and with the exercise of reasonable diligence could not have known of the hazardous worksite condition violative of the general duty clause.”

The judge cut the fine in half to $5,070.