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Tower Firm Fights Fine in Fatal Falls

Thursday, October 13, 2011

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The Indiana employer of two tower workers killed in a 320-foot fall is disputing the state’s finding that the company “knowingly” exposed the men to dangerous working conditions.

ERI (Electronics Research Inc., also known as ERI Installations Inc.) filed a formal challenge this week to a $91,500 fine imposed by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the April 13 accident, said ERI Vice President of Marketing Bill Harland.

 ERI Inc.

 ERI Inc.

ERI manufactures and installs towers, structural support systems, and other broadcast system components.

“ERI Installations Inc. regrets this terrible accident and mourns the tragic loss of our employees,” Harland wrote Thursday (Oct. 13) in an email. “The cause of the accident remains under forensic investigation; therefore, we dispute and are now formally contesting IOSHA’s findings and conclusions.”

‘Knowing’ Violations

Two Texas men perished in the accident. Ernesto Garcia, 29, of Laredo, and Paul Aliff, 32, of Mesquite, plunged more than 300 feet to their deaths as they and three other workers were installing a 500-foot-tall radio tower near Colburn, IN.

After a five-month investigation, IOSHA issued nine citations in the case. Four were classified as “Knowing” violations—IOSHA’s highest level of infraction—of fall-protection standards.

“The evidence from our comprehensive investigation shows that the company knowingly exposed its employees to unsafe working conditions,” said IOSHA spokeswoman Chetrice Mosley.

Fall Protection Cited

Although Garcia and Aliff were said to be wearing safety cables at the time of the accident, IOSHA found that their fall protection was inadequate.

 IOSHA says the workers were not completely tied off

 National Association of Tower Erectors

IOSHA says the workers were not 100% tied off when moving around the tower.

The citations say the men “were exposed to fall hazards while riding the pole connected to the jump line of the Gin Pole,” violating safety guidelines established by the National Association of Tower Erectors.

A steel gin pole is a lifting device required to install guyed and self-supporting towers, antennas, lines and other tower equipment. The jump line is used to raise and lower the gin pole.

IOSHA documents say the men:

• Were not provided fall protection during gin pole jumping operations;

• Were not 100% tied off when moving from point to point; and

• Did not have fall protection when accessing the man-basket.

The five Serious violations allege, among other things:

• Lack of a competent person on site to identify the fall hazard from Gin Pole operations;

• Lack of employee training to recognize and avoid the work environment hazards; and

• The use of a “makeshift” man-basket not designed by a qualified person familiar with structural design.

Neither the gin pole nor the man-basket was marked for load limits, IOSHA also said.

Founded in 1943, ERI manufactures and installs antenna, transmission line, filter and combining, and tower and structural support systems, and other broadcast system components.


Tagged categories: Citations; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Violations

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