August 20 2014 — OSHA has handed down contrasting fines on two incidents. In one where three were killed, the fine was $14,000, while another incident where no one was hurt the fine was $52,000. The difference? The latter was cited for a “willful” violation, which brings with it a bigger price tag.
S and S Communications Specialists has been fined $14,000 by OSHA for two serious workplace violations following a tower collapse that killed three last February in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
Hulbert, Oklahoma-based S and S Communications Specialists was contracted to perform structural modifications to an existing cell tower, including replacing diagonal bracing and installing leg stiffeners and new guy wires. The tower collapsed while the employees were removing diagonal bracing.
OSHA inspectors cited the company for violating section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for directing employees to remove diagonal structural members on communication towers without using temporary braces or supports, and for allowing employees to be tied off to bracing that was not capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The fine consisted of a $7,000 penalty for each of the two violations, which is the maximum amount allowed by law for a serious violation. S and S can contest the fines.
Coolville Free Climb Costs Company $52,000 Fine
A free climb by two workers on a 195-foot communication tower under construction in Coolville, Ohio, has resulted in several safety citations, according to an OSHA press release. Morlan Enterprises was cited by OSHA for one willful and eight serious safety violations, with proposed penalties of $52,500.
Morlan Enterprises was contracted by New Era Broadband Services of Coolville to build towers and install antennas at 20 locations in Meigs County as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Utilities Service-funded rural broadband build out.
“The willful violation cites the company for failing to ensure workers climbing the tower were using effective and adequate fall protection, including installing a climbing cable to the tower,” OSHA wrote. “Eight serious violations were cited for failing to provide workers with training on fall hazards, provide personal protective equipment, such as shock-absorbing lanyards and hard hats, and requiring workers to purchase their own fall arrest harnesses and other protective equipment.”
Other violations involved failing to make provisions for medical attention. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard or plain indifference to employee safety, according to OSHA.