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September 29, 2023
Contractor agrees to $370K fine to avoid prosecution

An Oklahoma contractor agreed to pay $370,680 in criminal and civil penalties to avoid federal prosecution for a worker’s fatal fall, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced September 27. Skinner Tank Company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement on one count of ignoring federal safety regulations that resulted in a worker fatality in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 2019.

OSHA cited Yale, Oklahoma-based Skinner Tank Company in March 2020 for a lack of fall protection after an employee constructing a storage tank suffered fatal injuries in a 50-foot (ft) fall at a Missouri agricultural facility. The agency cited the company for 2 willful and 11 serious safety violations; proposed penalties totaling $415,204; and placed the employer in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).

In the deferred prosecution agreement, Skinner Tank Company admitted that its violation of OSHA’s construction safety training and safety net standards caused the death of its employee.

An employee working on the roof of the 56-ft soybean storage tank fell more than 50 ft to the ground. OSHA inspectors determined that Skinner Tank Company didn’t require employees to use fall protection on October 14, 2019, while working on the roof of the soybean storage tank and didn’t provide fall protection training. The agency’s inspection also revealed that the company provided inaccurate safety information to its employees by telling them that wearing fall protection posed a greater hazard than not wearing it. 

“The resolution of this case sends a strong message that OSHA will hold employers accountable for willful violations of federal safety regulations that seriously or fatally injure their workers,” Billie Kizer, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Missouri, said in an agency statement. “Each year, too many workers lose their lives from falls—the leading cause of workplace deaths in the construction industry—because employers fail to provide fall protection.” 

“The Department of Labor pursued legal action and made a criminal referral to the Department of Justice to hold Skinner Tank Company responsible for its willful violation of safety regulations that resulted in an employee’s death,” Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri said. “Compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s fall protection requirements is essential to prevent fatalities like the one that occurred here. To meet their legal obligations under the Act and protect their workers on the job, employers must follow the applicable federal safety and health regulations.”

Skinner Tank Company, founded in 1982, is a family-operated company that builds welded steel storage tanks across the country, according to OSHA.

The agency cited a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report that nearly one in five workplace deaths in 2021 occurred in the construction industry. Just over one-third of construction deaths were due to falls, slips, and trips, almost all of which were from falls to a lower level. The construction industry accounted for 46.2 percent of all fatal falls, slips, and trips in 2021, according to BLS data.

Employer resources on OSHA’s website include video presentations in English and Spanish to teach workers about fall hazards and proper safety procedures. 

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