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April 05, 2016
Contractor cited after HVAC installer falls through skylight

The life of a 39-year-old HVAC installer who fell through a roof skylight ended suddenly because his employer failed to put proper fall protection measures in place, according to OSHA. Keep reading to learn more about this tragic incident—and learn how to avoid exposing your workers to similar hazards.

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On November 30, 2015, two workers were atop a building trying to unjam a saw stuck in its metal roof. When the saw jerked loose, one of the workers lost his balance and fell through an unguarded skylight to the concrete ground about 15 feet below. Taken to a nearby hospital, he died later of his injuries.

OSHA issued the Georgia contractor that employed the workers with one willful and one other-than-serious safety citation on March 24, after the agency investigated the incident.

“This tragedy was preventable. [The contractor] knowingly exposed its workers to dangerous fall hazards and failed to take action to protect them,” said William Fulcher, OSHA’s area director in the Atlanta-East Office. “Employers are responsible for either addressing workplace hazards or not putting workers at risk of being injured or killed. Our investigation found [the] employer did neither.”

The agency issued a willful citation to the employer for failing to protect workers from tripping or falling into an unguarded sky light. The standard at 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(4)(i) requires that workers be protected from falling through holes, including skylights, more than 6 feet above lower levels by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems erected around such holes.

The other violation relates to not reporting a fatality to OSHA within eight hours as required.

The employer is a mechanical, plumbing and electrical contractor for commercial and industrial building projects. Proposed penalties total $54,000.

Stand down to prevent falls

OSHA will hold its third annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction from May 2–6, 2016. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of preventing fall hazards in construction. According to OSHA, last year’s event reached more than 2.5 million workers, and this year the agency aims to reach double that number.

The goal of the stand-down is for companies to pause work to talk to employees about fall hazards and prevention. Employers who wish to participate can conduct a toolbox talk or hold another safety activity such as an equipment inspection, a review of rescue plans, or a discussion of job-specific hazards. Following the stand-down, employers can provide feedback and download a certificate of participation.

More information on the stand-down is available at http://1.usa.gov/1ktdH2Z.

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