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OSHA Fines Follow 24-Foot Fall

Friday, June 21, 2013

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A general contractor building a wind turbine in Hanover, MA, has been fined after an employee survived a 24-foot fall down the structure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied fines against Lumus Construction for violations discovered at the job site during the inspection, but not directly related to the accident.

The construction worker, 53-year-old Ernest Ray, fell 24 feet down the wind turbine on Dec. 14, 2012. He was wearing fall protection and survived.

Settlement Agreement

The citiations were issued April 4, and an informal settlement agreement dated May 16 stated that the company had agreed to correct all of the violations and pay an amended total penalty of $2,420—half the original total—by June 3. The severity of the violations was also reduced.

OSHA spokesman Andre Bowser told PaintSquare News that Lumus had not contested the case or the fines. Companies do not need to formally contest fines in order to meet with OSHA and "discuss issues," Bowser said.

"OSHA’s goal is positive change, not enforcing fines with inflexibility," he added.

Accident Not Fined

Moreover, the fines were unrelated to Ray's accident, Bowser told WickedLocal.com.

Hanover wind turbine
Mark Burridge / Wicked Local

Lumus Construction saw its penalties cut in half. The penalties stemmed from an OSHA investigation that was initiated after an employee fell 24 feet down a 210-foot wind turbine.

"The company is not at fault for the injury. The fines are not related to the injury," said Bowser.

Bowser confirmed on Tuesday (June 18) that the fines had been paid.

Lumus Construction also agreed to have a qualified safety and health consultant conduct a comprehensive safety and health audit of a wind turbine construction project by May 16, 2014.

Penalties Cut in Half

The original citations were for one serious violation containing three items and one other-than-serious violation, with a total of $4,840 in proposed penalties. However, upon settlement, all serious items were changed to other-than-serious, and the proposed penalty was cut to $2,420.

One other-than-serious violation item (originally serious) was for employees walking on surfaces where they were not protected from falling through holes more than six feet above a lower level. The company paid $660 of what was originally a $1,320 proposed penalty.

Lumus Construction
howtomakewindgenerator.blogspot.com

A county-wide rescue team had been trained to perform confined-space and rope rescues before the December 2012 incident.

Another other-than-serious violation item, which was originally serious, garnered a penalty of $1,760, paid in full. This citation was for a ladder angled at 92 degrees, creating a fall hazard for employees.

The third other-than-serious violation item that was originally serious was issued because a fixed ladder was not inspected by a competent person on a periodic basis. The initial $1,760 penalty was corrected with zero payment.

Another other-than-serious violation with no proposed penalty was issued for structural defects on fixed ladders including a loose ladder rung, incomplete ladder splice connections, and an over-torqued mounting bracket that deformed a ladder side rail.

The Rescue

The rescue was a first for the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team, a county-wide group of first responders specially trained for rope rescues, operations in confined space, trench and structural collapses, and other situations.

After falling 24 feet, Ray had to be carefully lowered through a series of hatchways inside the 210-foot wind turbine before being taken to the hospital.

wind turbine worker falls
Hanover Fire Dept.

The wind turbine is now nearing completion and is undergoing final tests.

The president of Lumus Construction, Sumul Shah, told WickedLocal.com: "It could have been a lot worse. He was wearing a harness."

OSHA records show no other violations by Lumus in recent years.

Contract Issues

The accident has not been the project's only problem. Earlier this year, the town of Hanover announced plans to terminate the wind tower contract with Lumus Construction after the project was delayed.

However, the town's bonding company advised against that decision, so the town brought in outside consultants to watch over the project.

"We hired an independent company to be our eyes and ears on the project," Hanover Town Manager Troy Clarkson told WickedLocal.com.

"They are working on our behalf and giving us the exact status of the [work]."

The consultant is being paid with funds withheld from Lumus when the town sent the termination intent letter, Clarkson told the news outlet. When the project is completed, the town still plans to seek damages from Lumus for two years of delays, he said.

The turbine is almost complete and is undergoing final tests.

   

Tagged categories: Confined space; Contractors; Fall protection; Ladders; OSHA; Wind Towers

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