Oregon OSHA cited Munoz Construction $70,000 for not protecting its employees from falls. The fine was based on a willful violation and was the result of an inspection at a Portland apartment complex on Feb. 27, 2013. The employer appealed the citation but agreed to it following an informal conference with Oregon OSHA.
During the inspection, an Oregon OSHA inspector observed two employees working on a second-story roof standing on trusses. Neither employee was wearing fall protection. The owner was on site and said his employees were comfortable working without fall protection, even though it was available in the company trailer.
"Falls are the primary source of serious injury and deaths in construction," said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. "With that in mind, there is simply no excuse for an employer to decide that compliance with the rules is not necessary."
Under Oregon OSHA's rules, employers must protect employees from falls when working at heights of 10 feet or more. The typical penalty for a first-time violation ranges from $400 to $1,000 for a small employer and increases with each repeat violation. A willful violation, where an employer intentionally or knowingly allows a violation to occur, can result in a $70,000 penalty.
Munoz Construction was also cited $2,920 for a repeat fall violation on Sept. 13, 2013, at a site in North Plains, Ore. Employees were working at 12 feet on a house without fall protection.
In addition to the 10-foot rule, employees working at six feet or above a lower level also need to be protected from falls near open windows, doors, mezzanines, balconies, or walkways. There are different ways to comply with Oregon OSHA's fall protection rule, such as using guardrails, catch platforms, and personal fall arrest systems. Since 2000, the agency has placed an emphasis on fall hazard inspections in construction.
More details can be found on Oregon OSHA's website at orosha.org/subjects/fall_protection.html. Federal OSHA also has training tools and posters available to help raise awareness around falls: www.osha.gov/stopfalls/index.html.
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