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Painting Contractor Cited in 2nd Death

Thursday, May 2, 2013

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A New York industrial painting contractor who lost two transmission tower painters in two deadly falls two years apart is now facing $35,000 in fines for new federal safety citations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued one serious and two repeat citations April 8 against Tower Maintenance Corp., of Seacliff, NY, in the accident Oct. 25, 2012, that left one painter dead and another critically injured.

The company was working on a 131-foot-high electric transmission tower in Edison, NJ, as a subcontractor for PSE&G (Public Service Electric and Gas Company) when the accident occurred.

70-Foot Fall

Authorities said the first painter came in contact with a live 26,000-volt line while working at 70 feet up. He fell, striking his partner 20 feet below, and both then fell to the ground.

Transmission tower
Reese Tips

Both accidents involved fatal falls by painters from great heights. In both cases, OSHA issued citations related to lack of fall protection.

The first painter was pronounced dead at a hospital later; the second miraculously survived his 50-foot fall and returned home to his native country of Brazil, an OSHA spokeswoman reported.

Neither man's name was released, and police said neither had been wearing fall protection.

A woman who answered the phone Wednesday (May 1) at Tower Maintenance Corp. said the company was contesting the new citations. She declined further comment and declined to identify herself.

On its web page, the company describes itself as a "Woman Owned & managed Enterprise based in New York, specializing in commercial and industrial services within the construction industry." The page says the company has worked for "numerous" utilities "throughout the United States."

Serious, Repeat Citations

The citations from the October 2012 accident include one serious violation for allowing the painters to work near live electrical lines; that violation carries a proposed fine of $7,000.

TowerMaintenance seal
Tower Maintenance Corp.

Tower Maintenance Corp. touts its "substantial experience" and is contesting the OSHA citations.

The two repeat citations involve fall-protection and training violations cited after a 2010 fatality involving the same company. Each citation carries a $14,000 fine.

One new repeat citation alleges lack of fall protection, saying, "The employees were not protected from falls through the use of a fall protection system" on that day.

The other citation accuses the employer of not being able to provide any documentation to indicate whether the employees had been adequately trained to work on transmission towers safely.

Earlier Death

Both repeat citations follow the issuance of similar citations after Alontercilio Rodrigues, 38, of Newark, NJ, perished Oct. 10, 2010, in a fall from near the top of a 94-foot-high transmission tower.

Transmission Tower
Truthanado / Wikimedia Commons

One repeat citation alleges lack of training in work around transmission towers.

Tower Maintenance was working in Upper Macungie Township, PA, at the time as a painting subcontractor for PPL Electric Utilities, based in Allentown, PA. Rodrigues landed in a cornfield and was pronounced dead within minutes.

In that case, OSHA issued four serious citations and proposed a fine of $15,120. Tower Maintenance contested the citations. In a later settlement, according to OSHA records, one general-duty violation was deleted and one serious violation was reclassified as other-than-serious. The company then paid $7,560 in fines—$3,780 for each violation.

This story was updated at 6 p.m. ET May 3, to add documents and updated information provided by OSHA.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Fatalities; Government contracts; OSHA; Painting Contractor; Transmission Towers; Utilities; Worker training; Workers

Comment from Thomas Matlock, (5/3/2013, 8:20 PM)

Enforcement is a joke. People died. For $3 grand and change.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/7/2013, 10:44 AM)

This time: one "serious" and two "repeat" violations with an initial assessment of $35, the time the negotiations are finished it'll be two "serious" and one "other than serious"...probably ~$10k in fines.

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