Contractor, Subcontractor Fined After Worker's Fatal Fall from Water Tower

OSHA has cited two contractors responsible for the rehabilitation and painting of a municipal water tower in Epping, N.H., for alleged violations of safety standards following the Aug. 7, 2009, death of a worker who fell 90 feet from the tower.

The agency's inspection found that the deceased worker's employer, Bullins Painting Inc., the Eden, N.C., subcontractor performing the tower work, failed to provide him with fall protection. Both Bullins Painting and the project's general contractor, Utility Services Inc. of Perry, Ga., failed to inspect fall protection equipment before each use, protect vertical lifelines against cuts and abrasions, and provide a ladder cage or equivalent safeguard for tower access ladders.

"This case is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when required fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored, or inadequate," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's New Hampshire area director. "The loss of a worker's life could have been prevented if these protective measures had been in place and in use."

OSHA identified additional safety and health hazards for Bullins employees, including improper anchorage points for the lifelines; an uninspected suspended scaffold; respirator protection deficiencies; overexposure to respirable dust, fumes and solvents; improper transfer of flammable liquids; smoking while mixing flammable liquids; electrical hazards; and failing to appropriately monitor the inside of the water tank for oxygen-deficient atmospheres before workers entered it. Both employers also were cited for recordkeeping violations.

All told, Bullins Painting has been issued three willful, 16 serious, and one other-than-serious citations, with $187,800 in proposed fines while Utility Services Co. was issued one willful, two serious, and three other-than-serious citations, with $93,000 in fines.

Both companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Concord Area Office in New Hampshire.

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