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OSHA Appeal Filed in Painter’s Deadly Fall

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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A Pennsylvania industrial painting contractor is contesting a variety of serious federal citations in the fatal 90-foot fall of an employee who was painting an electrical transmission tower.

The accident on the afternoon of Oct. 10, 2010, took the life of Alontercilio Rodrigues, 38, of Newark, NJ. Authorities said Rodrigues was painting near the top of the 94-foot high-tension tower in a cornfield in Upper Macungie Township, PA, when he fell. He was pronounced dead minutes later.

Rodrigues worked for Tower Maintenance Corp., of Seacliff, NY, which had subcontracted with PPL Electric Utilities to do the painting.

On Feb. 28, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued four serious citations and proposed a total fine of $15,120 ($3,780 for each citation) in the case. On March 25, Tower notified OSHA that the company would contest the citations and fine.

Certified Contractor

Tower Maintenance is a member of the New York Structural Steel Painters Contractors Association (NYSSPCA).

On the association’s site, Tower describes itself as an SSPC-QP 1 and SSPC-QP 2-Certified DBE/WBE based in New York, “specializing in commercial and industrial painting services nationwide.  We are dedicated to providing the highest quality of work at competitive prices. Approved by NYSDOT, NYC Transit, TBTA [Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority], and numerous International Utility companies.”

Tower Maintenance owner Elizabeth Vlahopoulos was out of town and unavailable for comment this week, the company said. Tower’s web site is under construction and has no information.

The company has no other record with OSHA.

Lack of Fall Protection Cited

An OSHA spokeswoman said this week that Rodrigues had used climbing ropes to reach the top of the tower that day. She said Rodrigues had unhooked his fall protection before he fell. Three other painters were working on site at the time but did not see what caused Rodrigues to fall, and OSHA had no other details, the spokeswoman said.

The OSHA citations allege:
  • The employer had no so-called “competent person” to make regular or frequent inspections of the job site, materials or equipment. (OSHA defines a competent person as one who is capable of identifying existing or predictable hazards and who has the authority to correct them.)
  • The employer did not ensure that employees (Rodrigues, in this case) were using fall protection. The three other painters who were working at heights were using fall protection, OSHA said. 
  • Rodrigues’ fall arrest system was not inspected before use. OSHA said the system had a knot in the life line, hampering its functioning and indicating that it had not been properly inspected or the employee trained in its use.
  • Employees were not properly trained in fall protection.
  • Untrained employees were erecting ladders as they climbed the tower.
The notice of contest has been forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent agency that reviews OSHA decisions.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; Industrial Contractors; OSHA

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