Some occupations are inherently dangerous, especially those that require workers to climb ladders or rooftops. Falling from either of these locations can lead to catastrophic injuries and even death. According to Massachusetts law, injured workers who are hurt in the course and scope of employment may pursue a workers’ compensation claim against their employer.
Additionally, the United States Department of Labor, and specifically the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), protects the rights of injured workers. Recently, OSHA fined a gutter cleaning company for repeatedly exposing workers to dangerous hazards without proper safeguards and for a series of fall accidents suffered by their workers. The company specializes in gutter cleaning, repair, and installation. While headquartered in New Jersey, the company provides services on the Eastern seaboard as well as in Texas and Illinois.
According to the press release issued by OSHA, the most recent accident occurred when a worker in Massachusetts fell nine feet to the ground while cleaning a gutter. The worker was not using fall protection, nor was his foreman, who had been exposed to a fall of over 20 feet from the roof next to the house.
A few months earlier, another employee had fallen 26 feet from a roof in Newton. Since the most recent incident was a repeat violation, and the company had failed to abide by fall protection requirements, proposed fines were set at $68,591.
Following the earlier Newtown incident, OSHA had cited the company for two violations, totaling $45,500 in fines. The company had failed to ensure workers were using protective equipment when atop a roof, and the company had not guarded two skylights that posed a risk of falling. As of the date of the recent press release, those penalties were under contest.
OSHA’s area director made clear that the seriousness of fall hazards cannot be understated. While neither worker was fatally harmed in these accidents, there was a very real threat of death or disabling injuries. In fact, within the press release, OSHA cited the serious hazards posed by falls and statistics indicating that within Massachusetts, 10 workers died in falls in 2014.
Typically, OSHA investigates employers that exhibit a pattern of workplace safety violations. Following fatal industrial accidents, OSHA will nearly always investigate a workplace for potential safety violations. In other cases of industrial harm, the agency maintains discretion to investigate work sites.
After receiving the citations and proposed penalties, the company has 15 days to comply or meet with the area director. The company can also contest the findings before an independent review commissioner.
Employers are required to protect their employees from preventable hazards, and the company in this case had not provided employees with required safeguards against falling. At Pulgini & Norton, our workers’ compensation attorneys represent industrial accident victims as they assert their right to compensation following an accident. If you or someone close to you has been hurt in a work accident in the Massachusetts area, call our office for a free consultation. We can be reached at (781) 843-2200 or online.
More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts Seafood Wholesaler Cited by Federal Agency for Serious Violations that Fatally Injured Employee and Exposed Employees to Risk of Harm, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, January 19, 2017
Reviewing Board Holds Massachusetts Employees Must be Protected When Employers Cannot Meet Financial Obligations to Compensate for Work-Related Injury, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, September 8, 2016