Federal safety regulators have brought the hammer down on a Louisiana contractor, deciding that the company failed to use correct safety equipment that would have prevented a fatal fall at an electric car plant construction site in Georgia.
“The risks of serious and fatal injuries for people working at these heights are well-known and no step should ever be overlooked during the process of inspecting the worksite for hazards,” said Jessica Bookman, acting area director for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA fined Eastern Contractors Inc., based in Geismar, Louisiana, the maximum allowed by federal law – $160,724 – after Victor Javier Cajija Gamboa fell 60 feet to his death in April, the agency said in a bulletin. OSHA also placed the contractor in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which requires extra follow-up inspections, corporate education and court enforcement actions.
Gamboa, of Statesboro, Georgia, was 35 at the time of the fall. He was walking along the top of the Hyundai car plant, under construction in Ellabell, Georgia, when the sharp edge of a steel I-beam cut through his safety line and he lost his balance. Eastern Contractors failed to provide the man with a fall-arrest system that would resist sharp edges and it did not take worn and damaged safety lines out of service, OSHA said.
Eastern Contractors has been cited for four other worker fatalities in the last four years, at sites in Louisiana, Virginia and Washington State.
“As such, the employer will be added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program intended to focus enforcement efforts on noncompliant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations,” the agency said in its bulletin.
Eastern likely has seen other penalties through increased workers’ compensation insurance premiums due to its heightened experience modification from the fatalities. Although average workers’ comp loss costs in Georgia and most other states have decreased significantly in recent years, steel erection and construction class codes continue to have some of the highest rates.
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