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Builder Fined in Student’s Accident

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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A Delaware homebuilder is being held liable for a severe head injury suffered by a high school student enrolled in a co-op training program with the contractor.

The student had been working for Reybold Homes Inc. at a new multifamily construction site in July 2014 when he fell from an unguarded second-floor balcony and struck his head.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration now says the boy was untrained and was not equipped with fall protection while removing construction debris at a height of more than 11 feet. Fall protection is required at six feet or higher.

Willful, Serious Violations

OSHA cited the company for one willful violation, with a $70,000 penalty, for failure to protect the teen from the fall by providing legally required protection.

Reybold Group

The teen was working at Reybold's Meridian Crossing development when he fell one story. OSHA said he had not been trained or given fall protection.

A willful violation, OSHA's highest level of infraction, is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

A serious citation, with a $7,000 penalty, was also issued because the worker never received training, according to OSHA. Serious violations reflect life-threatening hazards.

High School Co-op

OSHA said the teen had been working for Reybold as part of a cooperative education, or "co-op," program. Such programs allow high school students to integrate classroom learning with supervised, paid work experience.

About 1,000 colleges and universities in 43 countries, with 76,000 employers and 310,000 students, participate annually in co-op programs, according to the Cooperative Education and Internship Association.

The victim's identity was not available. An OSHA official said the boy has not fully recovered from the incident.

OSHA / Angelo Garcia III

OSHA's Stop Falls Campaign offers a variety of resources and materials in English and Spanish to prevent construction's leading cause of death.

"This young man suffered a preventable injury that requires ongoing treatment, and may affect future employment," Erin G. Patterson, director of OSHA's Wilmington Area Office, said in a statement. "Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe working environment and safe work practices."

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction and accounted for 27 percent of all worker fatalities in Delaware in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available.

Reybold Homes, a division of the Reybold Group, did not respond Monday (Jan. 26) to a request for comment. The company has 15 days from receipt of its citations to contest them, schedule a meeting with OSHA, or comply.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Commercial contractors; Enforcement; Fall protection; Good Technical Practice; Multifamily; North America; OSHA; Worker training

Comment from jim dolan, (1/27/2015, 6:53 PM)

Well, if OSHA wanted to end the co-op program, they have succeeded. I am not saying that a blatant disregard of safety regs. is not deserving punishment, if having a high school kid on your jobsite is going to cost you $77,000. for an oversite in training, I'd say that maybe other contractors who were thinking of participating in this program might just take another look at the liabilities involved. No one wants to see someone hurt on a project,but the fines are a little on the high side. The 77k would pay for two fully trained workers for a year.The Ins. companies will probably have something to say about hiring kids ever again. So, like I said I don't condone the lack of training or the disregard of safety regs., but Osha just prevented kids from getting a chance to learn a trade this way.

Comment from Mike McCloud, (1/29/2015, 7:58 AM)

OSHA prevents a lot of hiring...and raises.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/30/2015, 11:58 AM)

Jim - the employer needs to ensure everyone doing work at elevation is trained in wearing fall protection, has been issued fall protection and maintains a culture where everyone is expected to use the fall protection properly. It doesn't matter whether the employee is a part-time coop greenhorn or a guy with 40 years on the job. You just don't send a guy up without a harness and the knowhow to use it. 6 months after the injury, this poor kid still hasn't recovered.

Comment from jim dolan, (2/2/2015, 10:26 AM)

Tom I agree that the training needs to be done, and that fall protection needs to be worn. I believe I stated that, my complaint was with the size of the fine. The story is vague about the circumstances, and appeals had not yet been filed. Insurance companies will take note of this accident and not be willing to take the risks. This should have been prevented, it wasn't, but 77k in fines will do nothing to stop this. It will however put a wake-up call to employers. I just hope it doesn't jeopardize these programs for other kids.

Comment from Chuck Pease, (2/2/2015, 11:26 AM)

Jim, As it is common in these types of cases the final fines are typically lowered to .50 on the dollar. Who cares if this is going to limit kids from getting this type of experience if they are going to be raised up and not be taught to embrace a safety culture. I agree this program is important, but more important are these kids lives and limbs. Lack of required training is not an oversight as you stated.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (2/2/2015, 11:46 AM)

Jim, I can only hope that employers will take notice of the fine and actually deal with the constant safety lapses or intentional shortcomings. The regs where I am are a little different and allow 3 m / 10' before you have to tie off or use railings, etc. I was doing a bridge job not that long ago where there was no railing around the bridge was "only" a 2.9 m drop to the working deck below...and if they missed that, it was an additional 20 m to the river below. I brought up my concern with the contractor's safety person...and was told "if it's 3 m, then it's 3 m...otherwise we're not putting up anything". The difference is 0.1 m, or about 4"...I even noted that in most jurisdictions, that limit is only 6' (1.83 m) because of the possibility of serious, or even fatal, consequences. No good. Needless to say they had a lost time fall later in the project from the bridge deck to the working deck....and then they decided to put up some railings. It is unfortunate, but a lot of contractors and workers still don't see falls as a "big deal" yet we know it is one of the biggest sources of injuries and fatalities on the worksite. I actually wish Chuck wasn't right and that the fines wouldn't end up being 50 cents on the dollar on appeal...maybe more contractors would spend a couple bucks on training the new guys, providing the equipment and making sure it is used so more folks don't end up on a stretcher or in a casket. Just my rant.... Mike

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