A Vermont industrial contractor has agreed to pay a state fine of $3,500 for a 22-foot fall suffered by a worker on a bridge redecking project last fall.
Authorities said Lance Richardson, 44, of Claremont, NH, was carrying a sheet of plywood when he stepped through an uncovered four-by-eight-foot hole on the bridge and fell to Interstate 91 below.
Richardson suffered several broken bones—including, authorities thought, both elbows and both knees— but his injuries were not life threatening. Fortunately for Richardson, traffic at the time was light, and the first motorist on the scene happened to be a nurse.
“He was extremely fortunate,” said Robert McLeod, Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance program manager. “There was nothing around [the hole]. There was no cover on it.”
Fall Arrest Not Tied Off
The fine, reduced from $5,600, settled one serious violation issued by VOSHA in the case. The agency requires that holes on a walking or working surface more than six feet above a lower level be protected by a guardrail, cover or fall arrest system.
Richardson was wearing a fall arrest system at the time, but he had not tied it off to the cable that ran the length of the bridge for that purpose, McLeod said.
"The company did not make the argument that this was an independent employee act or employee misconduct” and has “provided us with abatement information to assure us it wouldn't reoccur," said McLeod.
A company official told the local newspaper that the company had conducted three training sessions since the accident, including one by an independent agency, on the necessity of abiding by safety rules
The bridge was being redecked as part of a $3.5 million renovation.
J.A. McDonald Inc., based in Lyndon Center, VT, was founded in 1975. The company’s services include sewer, highway, bridge, street, landfill and airport construction.
The company declined to comment on the settlement this week.
The company has two previous serious citations from VOSHA: one from May 2008, with a penalty of $500 (reduced from $900), and one from August 2006, with a penalty of $600 (reduced from $1,100).