OSHA Cites Contractors Following Worker’s Fatal Fall at George Washington Bridge

June 10, 2005

A fall from New York’s George Washington Bridge that killed an ironworker Feb.7 could have been prevented if his employer had ensured proper fall protection, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA’s inspection reportedly found that employees of Imperial Iron Works Inc., a Bronx-based steel erection contractor, were exposed to falls of 70 feet while working without fall protection on top of the anchorage house and on a catwalk that lacked required guardrails.

As a result, OSHA issued Imperial a willful citation with a proposed fine of $28,000 for failure to provide fall protection. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

“This case is a stark illustration of what can and does happen when employers don’t ensure that effective fall protection is supplied and used,” said Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s Manhattan area director. “Had proper safeguards been in place, this accident would have been avoided.”

Imperial was also issued five serious citations and fined an additional $8,000 for unprotected openings at three ladderway access points; employee exposure to being struck by falling objects; unsecured work platforms on scaffolding; an ungrounded electric grinder, and a broken grounding pin on an extension cord. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

VRH Construction Corp. of Englewood, N.J., the project’s general contractor, was issued three serious citations and fined $8,000 for unprotected openings at three ladderway access points; employee exposure to being struck by falling objects, and absence of ladder cages for fixed ladders used to access catwalk work areas.

Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to elect to comply with them, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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