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Steel Company Found Guilty in Falling Death

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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A federal judge has found a Missouri-based steel company responsible for a 22-year-old apprentice’s 2014 falling death.

Prosecutors announced Jan. 24 that St. Louis-based DNRB Inc., doing business as Fastrack Erectors, was found to be in violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that led to the death of Eric Roach.

The subcontractor on the construction of a 300,000-square-foot building in Kansas City, Missouri, failed to provide its workers with necessary fall protection equipment and permitted work without the equipment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri.

© / zhengzaishuru

DNRB Inc., doing business as Fastrack Erectors, is a steel erection company specializing in structural steel installation.

Roach died at the hospital following a fall of more than 30 feet on July 24, 2014.

Fastrack faces a maximum fine of $500,000 for the misdemeanor. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

The Ruling

“In the present case, the court holds Fastrack’s conduct was the cause in fact of Roach’s death because it finds that had the appropriate fall protection equipment been available, Roach would have used it and not fallen to his death,” Chief Judge Greg Kays wrote in his ruling, the Kansas City Star reports.

“Fastrack’s conduct was also the legal cause of Roach’s death because his death was a foreseeable and natural result of Fastrack’s allowing him to work more than 36 feet above the ground without fall protection.”

Life Cut Short

At the time of his fall, Roach had been standing on a nine-inch-wide steel girder on a building under construction.

"This young man had his whole life ahead of him. His dreams of marriage, children and exploring the great outdoors were cut short because his employer failed to provide fall protection, a violation of its own safety manual and OSHA rules," Marcia Drumm, OSHA's regional administrator, said in January 2015 after the federal agency hit the company with seven willful and three serious violations, carrying $511,000 in penalties.

"This tragedy illustrates how quickly a worker can die when fall protection is not provided, and why it's so important."

OSHA also proposed $19,000 in fines against the general contractor on the project, ARCO National Construction-KC Inc. OSHA records show both companies have contested the fines and the cases remain open.

Tragic Fall

Fastrack is an American Institute of Steel Construction-certified steel erection company that specializes in structural steel, miscellaneous steel, pre-engineered metal buildings, ornamental metal handrail and precast installation.

On the Kansas City project, Fastrack supplied on-site supervisors (who are based in the St. Louis area) while the ironworkers were hired from the union local in Kansas City.

judge gavel
© / Feverpitched

“Fastrack’s conduct was also the legal cause of Roach’s death because his death was a foreseeable and natural result of Fastrack’s allowing him to work more than 36 feet above the ground without fall protection,” according to the judge's ruling in the case.

Prosecutors said that on July 24, 2014, two Fastrack ironworker employees were receiving a bundle of roof decking sheet metal and setting it on top of the building’s bar joists. The employees’ task required them to guide the decking bundle to land it. Each decking bundle was 26 feet long by 36 inches wide.

The employees accessed the top of the building from a scissor lift and walked approximately 15 feet along a joist without wearing any fall protection. They walked on trusses that were nine inches wide, or bar joists which were five inches wide. Other ironworkers secured the decking to the trusses with screws and welds. These workers, which included Roach, did not use fall protection.

Protection Agreement

According to court documents, the contract between ARCO and Fastrack required that Fastrack “personnel who are working or present at heights in excess of 6 feet shall be provided, by (Fastrack) adequate fall protection.” Fastrack failed to enforce the use of fall protection, prosecutors said.

Both working foremen on the site were told, or questioned, about the lack of fall protection equipment and were in a position to personally observe employees failing to use fall protection equipment, authorities said.

Prosecutors said at least one of the foremen was working on the decking in the immediate area of the employees. He did not wear fall protection himself and failed to enforce the use of fall protection by the employees.

Federal statutes require that each employee engaged in a steel erection activity who is on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet above a lower level shall be protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems or fall restraint systems.

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


Tagged categories: Enforcement; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; OSHA; Regulations; Steel; Structural steel

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (1/31/2017, 4:19 PM)

This incient is very typical of organizations that do not have viable safety programs that includes worker and supervisor accountability, effective training, enforcement policies, safety auditing along with management commitment to continuous improvement.

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