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Masonry Worker Killed in Scaffold Fall

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

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DANVILLE, PA--Federal safety authorities are investigating the fatal fall of a masonry worker at a hospital jobsite in Pennsylvania.

The 48-year-old worker fell 100 feet to his death about noon July 8 at Geisinger Medical Center’s Foss Clinic, according to news reports citing police and other officials.

Stephen Kuchka
Family via Mayo Funeral Home

A father of three sons, Stephen Kuchka, 48, died July 8 in a fall. He had spent decades working as a masonry contractor.

The worker, identified as Stephen Kuchka, of Berwick, PA, had been working for Masonry Preservation Services, restoring bricks on the building’s exterior.

Kuchka had been an MPS employee for 17 years and a member of the Bricklayers Local 5 for 30 years, according to his obituary. He is survived by three sons.

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, according to OSHA officials.

Descending for Lunch

Reports say the fatal fall occurred as Kuchka and two other workers were preparing to descend the scaffolding to take a lunch break.

The scaffolding had been raised about 9½ stories, Montour County Coroner Scott Lynn told The Daily Item.

It was not clear Tuesday (July 14) whether the workers were wearing fall protection harnesses or other safety gear.


The worker fell to his death from 100 feet at the Geisinger Medical Center's Foss Clinic in Danville, PA.

Kuchka reportedly landed on an upper-level landing that had been made and was pronounced dead at the scene, The Daily Item said.

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials and local police are investigating the incident. The agency’s probe could take up to six months to complete.

Statement from Owner

Masonry Preservation Services of Berwick did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment or more information.

However, a Geisinger official told members of local media, “We take all the precautions that we can to protect ourselves from accidents, but unfortunately, sometimes they occur and this is tragic.”

Geisinger said it was cooperating with the investigation.

OSHA Record

Masonry Preservation Services has a record of cases with OSHA.

The record includes a July 2010 violation for fall-protection hazards at a jobsite in Washington D.C.

The initial penalty of $3,300 was reduced to $2,310 through informal settlement, according to the database.

The company also was cited for fall-protection hazards in December 2008, and paid a penalty of $780, the record states.


Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; Contractors; Health and safety; Health Care/Hospitals; Maintenance + Renovation; Masonry; North America; Scaffolding

Comment from Gail Alario, (7/15/2015, 8:29 AM) very sad

Comment from jim dolan, (7/15/2015, 11:46 AM)

True Gail, very sad! I wonder what those other violations were for? We are quick to blame the company after a tragic accident, but my guess that after working for a company for 17 yrs. this gentleman might have seen if there was something unsafe. We as employees should make it our own responsibility to ensure the safety of ourselves and our fellow workers. I find it hard to believe this company, or any company would want to lose a valuable employee through an accident such as this. My point is, that most of these accidents I read about here make it sound as though the "company" is at fault, when it has been my experience over the last 40 yrs. that this is not the case. I have never heard any company that I have worked for ask or tell me to do something unsafe.

Comment from Tom Bright, (7/15/2015, 2:20 PM)

The hundred-dollar harnesses I have take a minute or two to get into or out of. The several dangles invite snagging, like walking with sneakers untied. Maybe if entry-level units like these seemed less likely to actually cause accidents, guys would be more willing to use them routinely, and to invest in upscale models.

Comment from Robert Berg , (7/16/2015, 8:51 AM)

Very sad, prayers to the family.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/16/2015, 10:45 AM)

My condolences to the family of Mr. Kuchka. Jim, I generally agree...the larger companies I have worked for usually have a pretty good safety program (at the very least, on practice it can be a different beast). Even so, I've still had a few ask for things for which they should have known better. Unfortunately, there are also some bad apples out there who don't seem care about safety...profit drives them, plain and simple...and I think we've seen more than a few cases of that in some of these articles. I do 100% agree that we, as employees, need to look out for ourselves and our fellow workers.

Comment from Tom Bright, (7/17/2015, 10:57 AM)

My senior advisor's comment: "There is a macho thing about harnesses that resembles the old 'I want to be thrown clear of the wreck' arguments against seatbelts."

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