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Contractor to Pay $100K in Fatal Fall

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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A 66-year-old New Hampshire construction management company will pay a $100,000 penalty to settle federal safety violations surrounding the fatal fall of a worker last year, authorities said.

The MacMillin Company Inc., of Keene, NH, has also agreed to beef up its employee safety training and correct all hazards cited by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA cited the company in March for four serious and three willful violations and imposed fines totaling $167,580.

MacMillin Headquarters

The MacMillin Company, of Keene, NH, settled with OSHA for citations in connection with the fatal fall of a temporary employee last year, authorities said.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. OSHA said MacMillin initially contested the citations before agreeing to settle.

Fatal Injury at Middle School

The case involved the death of Steven Sawyer, 58, of Dublin, NH, who was erecting scaffolding Sept. 22, 2011, at a construction site at Keene Middle School, reports say.

OSHA said a plank upon which Sawyer was working snapped, sending him plummeting approximately 27 feet to the concrete floor below. Sawyer was transported to a local hospital in critical condition and died there Oct. 6., according to local news reports.

Keene Middle School
Keene Middle School

The victim, 58, was working last year on an auditorium project at Keene Middle School when he fell 27 feet. He died two weeks later.

The victim was one of a crew of temporary employees working under MacMillin's direction at the time of the incident. OSHA said the company had been constructing a school auditorium.

Willful Citations Amended

In March, OSHA hit the company with three willful violations in connection with the fall. Each carried a fine of  $50,400. The citations alleged failure to:

  • Have a competent person inspect scaffolds and scaffold components for visible defects before each work shift and during the erection process;
  • Provide fall protection for employees erecting or dismantling support scaffolds; and
  • Provide training to each employee involved in erecting, disassembling, moving, operating, repairing, maintaining, or inspecting scaffolding.

Under the settlement agreement, the fines were dropped to $30,000 per violation and amended from willful—a violation commited with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements or plain indifference to worker safety and health—to repeat.

In February 2003, OSHA cited the company for exposing workers to falls without fall protection, according to OSHA's database. MacMillin was fined $900 and informally settled with OSHA for $450.

Serious Citations

OSHA's Concord Area Office also cited the company in March for two serious violations, each carrying a $4,410 fine. OSHA alleged:

  • Scaffold and scaffold components were not capable of supporting their own weight and at least four times the maximum intended load; and
  • Tubular welded scaffolding was erected without adequate supervision by a competent person.

The agency also cited MacMillin for a serious violation, carrying a $4,410 penalty, for covering wood platforms with paint so as to obscure the top or bottom surface. However, the agency amended the penalty to $680, according to the settlement.

A final serious citation was issued because supported scaffold poles, legs, posts, frames or uprights allegedly did not bear on base plates (exposing employees to potential shifting or collapse). OSHA dropped the penalty from $3,150 to $500 for that violation.

Expanded Training Required

In addition to correcting the cited conditions and paying the fine, MacMillin agreed to provide the same level of training to its temporary workers as it does to its permanent staff. Further, the company agreed to sponsor presentations to provide fall-protection training for those erecting and dismantling scaffolding, OSHA said.

"While no settlement can restore a life, this agreement commits this employer to taking additional actions to help prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future," said Michael Felsen, the New England regional Solicitor of Labor, whose office negotiated the settlement.

Fall-Protection Message, New Directive

"The message cannot be repeated enough: Effective training and adherence to safety standards are critical to protecting workers against deadly or disabling injuries," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "But they are effective only if they are followed every day at every work site for every worker."

In April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a campaign to provide employers and workers with lifesaving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs in an effort to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry.

The agency also initiated temporary enforcement measures of a fall-protection directive from 2010. However, the agency has delayed full-scale implementation four times.

About the Company

Founded in 1946, The MacMillin Company manages construction projects in Northern New England across a wide range of markets, according to its website. This year, the company became an affiliate of DEW Construction of Williston, VT.

"MacMillin maintains our professional, but personal approach to managing all of our projects," the company said, "This approach has resulted in industry recognition for excellence in construction, commitment to safety and industry ethics."



Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Fatalities; Government; Health and safety; OSHA; Scaffolding; Schools

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