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Bridge Painter Fined $5,600 in 2nd Death

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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A Pennsylvania industrial painting contractor has agreed to pay a $5,600 fine to resolve a federal safety citation issued after an employee fell to his death on a worksite.

Under a settlement agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Odyssey Contracting (also known as Odyssey Painting Co.) paid the reduced fine (a 20 percent discount from the original $7,000) for one serious safety citation issued in the case.

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The worker was wearing a fall harness and attached lanyard but apparently had not been tied in to anything when he fell from the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge and hit the rocks at low tide.

Authorities said Odyssey employee Ercio Gasques, 29, of Newark, NJ, was killed on the afternoon of Dec. 5 when he fell from the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge in Maine, where he and two other painters had been dismantling equipment on the last day of a painting project.

Odyssey had a $9.3 million contract to repair and paint the bridge.

‘Somebody Screwed Up’

Gasques fell 38 feet to his death onto some rocks below the bridge. He was wearing a fall harness, with lanyard attached. The harness and lanyards were intact, indicating that Gasques most likely had not been secured properly, company owner Stavros Semanderes said after the accident.

He called Gasques “a good worker, a safe worker” but added: “Somebody screwed up; there’s no two ways about it.”

“A line should have been in place,” said Semanderes. “Independent of that, he could have hooked into the steel” on the bridge structure.

OSHA issued the safety violation for lack of fall protection.

“We settled it,” Semanderes said this week. He declined further comment.

2nd Painter Death

Gasques’ death was the second for the painting contractor in 14 months.

In October 2009, another painter perished in a 124-foot fall while working on the McKees Rock Bridge in McKees Rock, PA. Michael L'Hereaux, 54, of Ohio was conducting abrasive blasting under the Pittsburgh end of the bridge when he accidentally turned his blast equipment on a cable that was holding the suspension scaffold on which he was standing. The blast medium cut through the cable.

L’Hereaux had been issued a safety harness but was not wearing it at the time, an OSHA spokeswoman said.

Odyssey settled for five serious citations (reduced from six) and a fine of $12,600 (reduced from $16,800) unrelated to L’Hereaux’s death but based on “some other small things” that OSHA found during the same inspection, Semanderes said.

3rd Case Settled

OSHA also issued Odyssey a single serious citation in August 2010 on the Deer Isle project for transporting a crew of four in the back of a pickup truck. OSHA said that the men should have been seated in the truck.

Semanderes disputed the accusation, saying that the men were experienced painters and that the truck had been going only 15 mph.

The case was settled in April for the original $1,500 fine and one serious violation, OSHA records show.

 “We are a safe company,” Semanderes said. “We’ve been a safe company.”

   

Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Accidents; Bridges; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Painters; Violations

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