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Safety Probe Spurs Manslaughter Charges

Thursday, October 1, 2015

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The owner and foreman of a California construction company face manslaughter charges stemming from the falling death of an employee.

Jose Plancarte, 51, perished Dec. 26, 2012, after falling 18.5 feet while working on a residential construction site in San Francisco, according to authorities. Plancarte was not wearing fall protection and the scaffold he was working on had not been equipped with guardrails, authorities said.

fall protection

Jose Plancarte, 51, died after he fell 18.5 feet. Authorities say he was not wearing fall protection and the scaffold he was working on did not have a guardrail.

Salvador William Versaggi, the owner of Sonoma, CA-based Versaggi Construction, along with foreman John Fitt pleaded not guilty Sept. 22 to manslaughter charges and two counts of violation of the labor code, California’s Department of Industrial Relations announced Sept. 25.

Copies of the indictments in this case were not immediately available for review Wednesday (Sept. 30).

The charges were brought by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office after Cal/OSHA turned over the results of its investigation into the incident.

“When our investigations uncover potentially criminal behavior by employers, we exercise our full jurisdiction not only to protect workers but to also make referrals to the District Attorney for prosecution where appropriate,” said Christine Baker, director of the DIR. Cal/OSHA is a division of the DIR.

‘Preventable’ Death

Plancarte’s death was “preventable,” authorities say.

On the day of his death, he was assigned to lower a window frame opening in the main stairwell of a home. Plancarte built a nailed-bracket scaffold and used two scaffold planks to access the window located more than 18 feet off the ground, according to the DIR.

George Gascon
Official Photo

“Employers in California are required to provide the necessary protections for their workers in order to prevent a tragedy such as this,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.

Plancarte was later found unresponsive at the base of the stairwell, having fallen 18.5 feet to the concrete basement floor below. He was taken to local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Citations Issued

Cal/OSHA determined that Versaggi Construction had failed to provide fall protection training to its workers at the site and that the foreman was aware that Plancarte had erected a prohibited type of scaffolding in direct violation to the employer’s own safety program, according to the release.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation into the incident resulted in the issuance of four citations, including two serious, carrying total penalties of $25,870. The case remains open, according to OSHA’s database.

“Employers in California are required to provide the necessary protections for their workers in order to prevent a tragedy such as this,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.

About the Company

Versaggi Construction’s website says the company has over 30 years of experience in residential and commercial building and engineering.

The company works with architects, engineers and clients within the San Francisco Bay area, the website notes.

Versaggi Construction did not respond Wednesday to a request seeking comment on the case.


Tagged categories: Criminal acts; Ethics; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Regulations; Worker training

Comment from john lienert, (10/1/2015, 7:22 AM)

after "30 years experience"you'd think the cheapos would know enough to rent/own proper equipment......guess they couldn't be bothered about "just some laborer's" life

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