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Fatal fall at construction site in N.Y., leads to $49,000 in U.S. Labor fines

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited David Burke Construction LLC of Hamburg, N.Y., for alleged repeat and serious violations of fall protection safety standards after an employee fell 30 feet to his death at a Buffalo worksite on March 20. The accident occurred at the Webb Building, 90 Pearl St., which is undergoing renovation. The employees were working on the second floor, at the edge of deteriorated and missing floor sections that opened to the building's basement, when an employee fell through the missing floor section.

OSHA's inspection found no guardrails or safety nets were present, and the employees did not have a personal fall arrest system, such as a safety harness, that would have stopped a fall. Additional fall hazards stemmed from ladder holes that lacked guardrails or offsets to prevent employees from inadvertently walking or falling into the holes. "This case is the most extreme and unfortunate example of what can and does happen when fall protection is not used," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. "The need for fall protection is clear and required and there's absolutely no good reason for its absence in this type of work situation. The use of required safeguards would have prevented this death."

OSHA found that employees had neither been trained to identify fall hazards nor in proper fall protection procedures. The worksite also had not been inspected by someone with the knowledge and authority to identify and correct fall hazards. As a result, OSHA issued two repeat citations, carrying $28,000 in proposed fines, for the fall hazards and three serious citations, with $21,000 in proposed fines, for the lack of training and inspections. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer previously has been cited by OSHA for substantially similar hazards and those citations have become final. The commonly-owned company Burke Homes LLC was cited by OSHA in November 2004 for similar hazards at another Buffalo worksite. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. Fall protection is required in most cases when employees work six feet or more above the next work level.

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