Falls Kill Three High-Rise Workers; Contractors Cited

"If scaffolding parts had been inspected and replaced or repaired as needed, it is possible that this tragic accident and loss of life could have been avoided," said Eric Harbin, OSHA's area director in Austin.

OSHA is proposing penalties against four contractors for alleged safety violations following a scaffolding incident that killed three workers at a high-rise luxury apartment construction site near downtown Austin.

"The supported scaffold from which employees were working collapsed, causing workers to fall more than 100 feet to their death," said Eric Harbin, OSHA's area director in Austin. "If scaffolding parts had been inspected and replaced or repaired as needed, it is possible that this tragic accident and loss of life could have been avoided."

OSHA's Austin Area Office began its investigation June 10 at the 21 Rio construction project on Rio Grande Street in Austin, following the death of three workers employed by Margate, Fla.-based Capoera Construction LLC. Capoera was cited with three serious violations including failing to develop and implement a safety and health program and failing to provide a competent person to inspect the scaffold prior to its use. The company also was cited with two repeat violations for failing to provide adequate fall protection systems and failing to adequately train workers to recognize scaffolding hazards. Proposed penalties total $36,400.

The agency cited Mast Climber Manufacturing Inc., doing business as American Mast Climbers, the owner and installer of the scaffolding system, with a willful citation for not having scaffolds designed by a qualified person and constructing and loading the scaffold in accordance with that design. OSHA also cited the company with eight serious violations including failing to provide scaffolding capable of supporting four times the maximum intended load, failing to have a competent person inspect the scaffolding and its components, and failing to repair or remove damaged scaffold parts. Proposed penalties total $86,800.

Andres Construction Services LLC, the general contractor, and Greater Metroplex Interiors Inc., the prime contractor for the building exterior, each were cited with four serious violations for failing to have scaffolding and its components inspected by a competent person, failing to provide adequate fall protection systems on scaffolds, and failing to train employees on the use of scaffolding systems. Proposed penalties for Andres Construction Services total $14,000, and proposed penalties for Greater Metroplex Interiors total $22,400.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health; a serious violation is one that could cause death or physical harm that can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists and a repeat violation is issued when an employer previously was cited for the same or similar hazard within the last three years. The companies have 15 business days from receipt of citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Austin area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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