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MS Contractor Fined in Fatal Fall

Thursday, April 23, 2015

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OCEAN SPRINGS, MS—Federal safety authorities are proposing $58,700 in fines against the employer of a Mississippi construction worker who perished in a 20-foot fall.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Thomas Matthews Framing LLC, of Biloxi, with four safety violations—including one willful and two serious—after determining that the contractor ignored fall-protection standards that contributed to an employee’s death last November.

Thomas Matthews Framing had not installed safety guardrails on a balcony of an Ocean Springs house under construction, according to OSHA. The case will also tentatively place the company in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Photos: OSHA

On Nov. 3, 2014, Gerald Moran, 42, fell more than 20 feet from this residence in Ocean Springs, MS. He died eight days later due to his injuries.

The company did not return a call Tuesday (April 21) seeking comment. Thomas Matthews Framing does not have a previous OSHA inspection history.

OSHA authorities say the death of the 42-year-old father was preventable.

The Fatality

Gerald James Moran, of Ocean Springs, suffered a fall of more than 20 feet on Nov. 3, 2014.

He had been installing balcony ceiling planks—a job he had done numerous times—at the home when he lost his balance, according to OSHA. Two other employees were also installing planks at the time, but were not injured.

Moran suffered brain and spinal cord injuries in the fall, according to local news reports. He was comatose and in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit at the Ocean Springs Hospital for several days before succumbing to his injuries Nov. 11, reports said.

Moran is survived by his companion, Sarah, his son, and a step-son, according to an obituary on SunHerald.com.

OSHA said it had learned of the accident via local media outlets.

fall protection

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction.

The new house was located at the former site of the Del Castle-Legate Place, a once-palatial residence also known as the “Al Capone home.” Local residents say it was used as a hideout for the Chicago mobster during Prohibition, according to the Associated Press.

That home, built in the mid-1920s, was demolished in 2007 after efforts to save it were unsuccessful.

Preventable Death

“This tragedy could have been prevented had Thomas Matthews Framing done what it knew was right and followed OSHA safety standards," said Eugene Stewart, OSHA's area director in Jackson.

"Employers cannot choose when to follow these practices. The lives of their workers depend on it."

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows that fatal work injuries in Mississippi accounted for 64 of the 4,405 fatal work injuries reported nationally in 2013.

Willful, Serious Violations

OSHA imposed one willful, one other-than-serious and two serious violations against the company, according to the citation document.

The willful citation, carrying a $49,000 proposed penality, was issued for allowing employees to work at heights greater than six feet without guardrails or 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.

Two serious citations, with fines totalling $7,700, were issued for not providing guardrails on scaffolding more than 10 feet above a lower level and not training workers to recognize and prevent fall hazards.

OSHA said the company also failed to report the fatality to OSHA within eight hours, resulting in the other-than-serious violation, which carries a $2,000 proposed fine.

Thomas Matthews Framing has 15 days to comply, meet with OSHA officials, or contest the findings.


Tagged categories: Citations; Fall protection; Hazards; Health and safety; OSHA; Regulations; Residential Construction

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