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OSHA: Fall Victim Denied Safety Gear

Friday, July 31, 2015

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A Texas-based construction company faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal fines after a temporary worker fell 12 feet through a roof and was hospitalized with severe injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit Cotton Commercial USA Inc., of Katy, TX, with fines totaling $362,500 for seven alleged safety violations, including one willful and four willful egregious.

OSHA investigators found that the fall victim had asked the contractor for required safety gear but never received it prior to his fall on Jan. 24.

© / katifcam

The unidentified victim suffered fractured arms and severe contusions in the fall in January.

Moreover, the agency said the employer waited three days to report the incident to the federal workplace safety authorities, when it was required to do so within a 24 hour-period.

Gretna, LA-based Gardia Construction, which provided the temporary laborers to Cotton Commercial, was also fined nearly $5,000 for failing to conduct frequent and regular inspections of the jobsite.


“Falls kill workers, but they are preventable,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in announcing the citations July 22.

“Cotton Commercial denied its workers the safety equipment they are required to provide, and the company intentionally waited several days to report the incident and misled OSHA’s inspectors.”


“Cotton Commercial denied its workers the safety equipment they are required to provide," Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said.

Cotton Commercial did not immediately respond Thursday (July 30) to a D+D News request for comment on the case.

However, a company spokesman told a Houston news outlet that the company is “committed to providing a safe workplace for every one of its employees.”

“Cotton is taking action to determine why the incident happened with the subcontractor, Gardia Construction, by a total review of all policies, procedures and training," Randall Thompson told the Houston Business Journal.

“Cotton has engaged a safety consultant to perform on-going reviews of its safety programs.”

‘Egregious’ Case

OSHA imposed four willful citations against Cotton Commercial—one for each employee engaged in roofing activities on low-slope roofs with unprotected sides and edges 6 feet or more above lower levels who was not protected from falling by a fall protection system.

Those citations carried $290,000 in proposed fines. The agency uses egregious willful citations to fine companies per employee or instance of a violation.

A willful violation, carrying a $70,000 proposed penalty, was also issued against Cotton Commercial for failing to report the in-patient hospitalization within 24 hours.

The contractor was also given two serious citations for not training employees in the use of fall protection and ladders. Those violations carried total proposed penalty fines of $12,500.

“Cotton Commercial was well aware of how to prevent [the] safety hazard and, in fact, on the following day Cotton made sure all workers were provided with the required safety equipment,” said OSHA Regional Administrator John Hermanson.

“It shouldn’t have to take a serious injury for a company to comply with the law.”

Joint Responsibility

OSHA also fined the subcontracting company that provided laborers to Cotton Commercial for the job.

OSHA fall protection

Fall safety equipment helps prevent falls from heights.

Gardia Construction received a citation for one serious violation and a fine of $4,900, for allegedly failing to conduct frequent and regular inspections of the job site where its laborers worked.

“Staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers,” according to OSHA.

OSHA Record

A review of OSHA records found that Cotton Commercial has recently been cited for the duty to have fall protection.

In October 2012, the company was fined $5,390 for a serious hazard related to the duty to have fall protection. The company informally settled the case, dropping the serious hazard classification to “other-than serious” and paying $4,000.

In July 2011, the company was issued a $9,000 fine for two serious violations regarding fall protection and training. Cotton Commercial settled that case informally, paying $6,300.

Gardia Construction has no recent OSHA record, according to a review of the agency’s database.

About the Companies

Cotton Commercial employs about 227 workers and operates throughout the U.S.  

The company provides remediation services for commercial and residential structures damaged from disasters.

Gardia Construction employs about 80 workers and provides labor to Cotton Commercial.

Both companies have 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s Houston South area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


Tagged categories: Citations; Construction; Contractors; Ethics; Fall protection; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Subcontractors; Worker training; Workers

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