Man Dies Working on Bridge, OSHA Fines Company $107,000

Kent Morton was a painter working on the Ambassador Bridge in Michigan when he fell to his death in January. His estate is suing the company he worked for, Seaway Painting, as well as Detroit International Bridge Co.Representatives of his estate filed suit in March claiming that the scaffolding underneath the bridge was unsafe and improperly installed. They also claim that the required safety devices were not provided, including a harness, rescue boat with driver, life jackets, and a buoy.

An official with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated that companies doing construction work are required to have life jackets, a buoy and lifesaving boat nearby.

Morton had been tightening a cable when the tension caused it to snap. Morton was not provided with a safety harness when he reported to work that day by the general contractor, Detroit International Bridge Co.

After several months of investigating, Michigan OSHA has found that there were plenty of things wrong with the work site where Mr. Morton fell from the bridge. MIOSHA reported that there were no life rings or life boats to rescue him from the waters, and he was not wearing safety equipment that could have prevented him from falling.

A majority of the fines were attributed to Seaway Painting, but Detroit International Bridge Co, Walter Toebe Construction and Rahorn Electric were also fined. The fines totaled $107,900.

The MIOSHA’s report stated, “The investigation found that the employer did not erect the suspended scaffold in accordance with the scaffold design, did not follow the procedures for erecting and dismantling the suspended scaffold as outlined by the scaffold manufacturer, and did not ensure employees were protected from falling while dismantling the scaffold.”

The four companies violated a total of twenty nine rules of standards, and all of them were classified as serious. A serious violation is a hazard that exists that has a substantial probability of causing serious physical harm or death.

The fines were distributed as follows:
• Seaway Painting, LLC – $67,000
• Walter Toebe Construction Co. – $28,700
• Rauhorn Electric Co. – $8,900
• Soil and Materials Engineers, Inc. – $3,300

Pulgini & Norton, LLP attorneys have handled workers’ compensation claims for over 25 years in and around Boston and its surrounding areas. If you or a family member has been injured at work and would like to seek legal assistance, please contact us at (781) 843-2200 or (888) 344-2046 or email us.

Cited Sources:

Lawsuit filed in death of man working on Ambassador Bridge, Detroit Free Press, April 11, 2012

Citations Issued In Death Of Ambassador Bridge Painter, CBS, May 10, 2012

Ambassador Bridge death fall leads to $107K in fines: Four companies broke 29 rules or standards at the time of Kent Morton’s death, CBCNews, May 10, 2012

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