OSHA Releases Findings in Texas House Collapse

April 19, 2005

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited an Austin-based house leveling company for alleged violations of safety standards, following the investigation of a fatal accident last December. Proposed penalties total $14,700.

Austin House Leveling & Soil Stabilization Inc., which employs about 12 workers, was cited by OSHA’s Austin area office for seven alleged serious safety violations. OSHA’s investigation began Dec. 28 when a 100-year old house workers were renovating shifted and collapsed on them.

“One worker was killed and another injured as the workers scrambled to escape the falling structure that was not properly supported,” said John Miles, OSHA regional administrator in Dallas. “This accident was preventable had the company followed construction standards and trained employees to recognize hazards.”

The alleged serious violations were issued for failing to train employees, failing to require hard hats, improper use of jacks, and failing to follow OSHA’s excavation standards, including those which require support for structures adjacent to excavations. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard of which the employer knew or should have known.

As part of a special emphasis, the OSHA regional office in Dallas has implemented an outreach program to address and improve job safety and health in the residential construction industry in Texas. “An important objective of this special emphasis program is to reduce work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses among the large Hispanic workforce in the state’s residential construction industry,” said Miles.

OSHA’s seven area offices throughout Texas will focus their resources on local factors that have contributed to serious injuries or fatalities. Other program objectives include motivating workers and employers to emphasize safety; encouraging the involvement of employees in analyzing and eliminating hazards; and establishing sound safety and health programs in English and Spanish that cover the full range of work practices used by local companies.

Austin House Leveling has 15 working days from the receipt of the citations to comply, to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA’s Austin area director, or to contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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