A fall from a third-story balcony killed 44-year-old Jorge Carrion Torres as he worked on the exterior of a Dallas apartment complex this spring. Now, the company that employed him has been cited by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Torres, who had been on the job for one month, was applying stucco underlayment to the balcony walls when the incident occurred. His employer had not installed scaffolding and had not provided Torres or his co-workers with personal fall protection.
On Nov. 10, OSHA cited his employers, Design Plastering Inc. and Design Plastering West LLC of Phoenix for eight egregious willful and four serious violations. Previously, the state OSHA in Arizona had cited Design Plastering seven times for allowing fall-related hazards for a total of $5,850. For the new incident, federal safety and health officials have proposed fines totaling $407,400 for the citations.
“When an employer fails to put up a guardrail or scaffolding, or doesn’t provide personal fall-arrest systems, anyone working at a height of 6 feet or more is defenseless against a fall. OSHA will not tolerate this kind of employer behavior,” says assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels.
The incident occurred at the 342-unit Maple District Lofts, developed by Lang Partners.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one in five private industry worker deaths in 2014 were in construction. Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for nearly 40 percent of 2014’s construction fatalities. Texas leads the nation in construction fatalities, and this is the second egregious case involving fall protection there in recent months. Earlier this year, a construction worker in Houston denied a safety harness suffered severe injuries after falling through a roof.
Based in Phoenix, plaster and stucco contractors Design Plastering and Design Plastering West employ about 90 workers. They have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.