A fall from a third-story balcony killed 44-year-old Jorge Carrion Torres as he worked on the exterior of an apartment complex on May 14, 2015. Torres, who had been on the job for one month, was applying stucco underlayment to the balcony walls when the incident occurred. His employer had not installed scaffolding and had not provided Torres or his co-workers with personal fall protection.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited his employers, Design Plastering Inc. and Design Plastering West LLC, of Phoenix, on Nov. 10 for eight egregious willful and four serious violations. Previously, the state OSHA in Arizona had cited Design Plastering seven times for allowing fall-related hazards.
Federal safety and health officials have proposed fines totaling $407,400 for the citations.
“When an employer fails to put up a guardrail or scaffolding, or doesn’t provide personal fall-arrest systems, anyone working at a height of six feet or more is defenseless against a fall. OSHA will not tolerate this kind of employer behavior,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
“This senseless loss of a man’s life is the result of this employer’s failure to comply with clear OSHA safety requirements despite the fact that it had been previously cited for the same violations,” Michaels added. “Design Plastering has been cited for $5,850 in the past for fall hazard related violations. Clearly, these penalties were not sufficient to deter this employer’s unlawful actions.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one in five private industry worker deaths in 2014 were in construction. Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for nearly 40 percent of 2014’s construction fatalities. Texas leads the nation in construction fatalities. This is the second egregious case involving fall protection there in recent months. Earlier this year, a construction worker in Houston denied a safety harness suffered severe injuries after falling through a roof.
Based in Phoenix, plaster and stucco contractors Design Plastering and Design Plastering West employ about 90 workers. They have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
At the time of the fatal incident, Argonaut Insurance Co. was the workers’ compensation carrier for the employer.