A Georgia mechanical contractor faces fines of $49,000 after the US Court of Appeals upheld OSHA’s decision to issue a willful citation after a worker fell through a skylight to his death. The contractor’s defense: the foreman did not have adequate training and was ignorant of OSHA’s Fall Protection standard. The panel was not convinced.
On November 30, 2015, a foreman assigned by Martin Mechanical Contractors was overseeing the installation of an HVAC system atop a metal roof of a warehouse in Athens, GA. The work planned adjacent to several skylights which were 15-feet above the ground. According to the OSHA’s citation, the skylight holes were left unguarded, and workers were not provided with a personal fall-arrest system, even though they were available on-site in the foreman’s truck.
Ignorance Is No Excuse
One of the workers under the foreman’s watch fell to his death after his electrical saw got caught in the metal material of the roof, causing him to lose his balance. Before the accident, the foreman warned the two workers to be careful around the skylights and left the roof, which prompted the willful citation. The employer fought OSHA’s citation stating that deficiencies in the foreman’s training left him unprepared – precluding the willful violation. The Court’s decision to uphold the willful citation was based mainly upon the foreman’s warning to avoid working around the skylights. According to the Court, his acknowledgment of the danger posed by the environment suggest he knew enough to determine that this presented a hazard to the workers. Moreover, while the foreman might not have known the exact requirements of the standard, his actions – keeping PPE in the work truck – and his awareness of the potential hazard led the Court to believe the foreman would not have followed the required safety precautions even if he was fully cognizant of the standard.
Related Training: 8-Hour Fall Protection
At Gallagher Bassett, we’re always stressing that safety is everyone’s responsibility. A properly trained workforce, especially those charged with worker safety, not only saves a firm time and money but most importantly save lives. We can all learn something from this tragic incident; while we may not know every possible regulation in the books, ignorance of OSHA standards will not get you off the hook.