OSHA Seeking $84K Fine in Pa. Workplace Elevator Death

October 3, 2006

A contractor faces $63,000 in federal workplace safety fines for an accident in which a subcontractor’s employee was decapitated by an elevator.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed the fine against Massaro Corp. of Pittsburgh, in the April 13 death of James Neely.

Neely, 44, was working for subcontractor Mariani & Richards Inc. when he stuck his head through a panel in a freight elevator shaft door and was struck by a passing elevator car. OSHA investigators found that Massaro Corp. willfully violated workplace safety rules by not covering glass panels that had been broken or removed from the doors leading to the elevator shaft.

Massaro Corp. president Joseph Massaro III said the company has a good safety record and plans to fight the fines.

“This was a tragic accident that cost a man his life, but that doesn’t mean there was anything willful about it,” he said. “We have a strong culture of safety in this company, and we take the well-being of our employees very seriously.”

OSHA also proposed a total of $21,500 in fines against Mariani & Richards and six other subcontractors for lesser safety violations.

Ron Freeborough, president of Mariani & Richards, said Neely was an experienced worker who should have known better than to stick his head into the elevator shaft. That company will also appeal the fine, he said.

The companies have 15 days to appeal, but Massaro said his company would first try to negotiate a lesser penalty.

The accident happened at a former warehouse that is being converted into apartments for students at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Massaro had previously said the elevator operator did not know that Neely was peering into the shaft.

The buttons used to summon the elevator were not working, OSHA found, and workers at the site used walkie-talkie-type phones to communicate with each other.

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