In October of 2014, three Massachusetts roofers were hospitalized following a scaffolding accident that took place at their worksite. The accident in question was easily preventable, considering the fact that these three men were standing atop a plank of spruce that was very clearly marked as being unsafe for scaffolding use. The plank broke, causing the three roofers to fall over two stories to the ground. Their collective and individual injuries were extensive, of which included injuries to the eye, spine, face, chest, rib fractures, broken bones, broken ribs, and a punctured lung. The company that employed these men had been in violation of various safety codes in the past—a lesson they apparently did not learn from.
Provencher Home Improvement of Beverly, Massachusetts had come under fire before for violating numerous safety standards that were put in place to ensure optimum safety for all workers employed by the company. The incident itself occurred at an A.C. Castle Co., Inc. job site, and because the two companies are so closely integrated, the investigation chose to charge them as a single employer. M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated that A.C. Castle held a great degree of control over the Provencher worksites—a degree strong enough to warrant the allowance of them equal responsibility for the accident involving the three roofers. Both companies are supposed to adhere to strict rules and safety standards at all worksites, and upon arriving at the scene of this accident in Wenham, Massachusetts, inspectors found the companies to be in violation of more than just improper scaffolding.
Provencher Home Improvement and A.C. Castle were cited for numerous violations totaling $294,500 worth of fines. Not only were the scaffoldings erected with planks unsafe for standing on, they were also in violation of the 20 foot height allowed by safety standards. The ladders used on site did not extend three feet above the proper landings used for stability, and the employees at the worksite were also not equipped with fall protection either. Other concerning issues that were found were defective and damaged scaffolding components, missing and inadequate scaffolding anchorage, and the employees were not even properly trained in the safest ways to erect the scaffolding they were using . The company was sued overall for three willful violations, one repeat violation, and five serious violations that amounted to the sum provided above.
The willful and repeat violations stem from the fact that both A.C. Castle and Provencher had prior knowledge of the hazards that were identified at their worksites, and both companies had individual violation histories with OSHA in addition to that. A.C. Castle had been inspected by OSHA in 2005, 9 years prior to the accident involving the three men, and Provencher Home Improvement had been inspected twice since 2011, just three years prior to the accident. The result was 47 violations totaling over $123,720 worth of fines between them. Three of the prior violations also included unsafe scaffold conditions, as well as five violations involving ladder dangers, and three for fall protection violations. Each of these issues on their own could create an enormous platform for injury or fatalities, but all of them combined is an almost certain guarantee that something is going to go wrong sooner rather than later.
The three men, while badly injured, are lucky to have escaped the situation alive. Falling at a worksite is the leading cause of death for construction workers, with an alarming 294 fall fatalities listed for 2013 alone. OSHA has enacted a Fall Protection Campaign in hopes of educating employers and employees alike on the proper safety standards and codes that need to be followed to ensure that these types of accidents no longer occur. Certain employers have already jumped aboard the safety train, allowing themselves and their workers to participate in OSHA’s Fall Safety Stand-Down program that takes place over two dates in May. Employers and employees are encouraged to stop the work taking place that day in order to observe proper safety techniques that include: the correct way to wear a harness, to use guard rails, and are also encouraged to make sure they are in compliance with all fall protection guidelines.
Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has said that involvement in these programs is a small devotion of time but with a large amount of reward for both workers and their employers.