OSHA Cites North Carolina and Georgia Contractors Following Fatal Worker Fall from Water Tower


OSHA has cited two contractors responsible for the rehabilitation and painting of a municipal water tower in Epping, New Hampshire, for alleged violations of safety standards following the August 7, 2009, death of a worker who fell 90 feet from the tower.

OSHA’s inspection found that the deceased worker’s employer, Bullins Painting Inc., the Eden, North Carolina, subcontractor performing the tower work, failed to provide him with fall protection. Both Bullins Painting and the project’s general contractor, Utility Services Inc., of Perry, Georgia, failed to inspect fall protection equipment before each use, protect vertical lifelines against cuts and abrasions, and provide a ladder cage or equivalent safeguard for tower access ladders. 

“This case is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when required fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored or inadequate,” said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA’s New Hampshire area director. “The loss of a worker’s life could have been prevented if these protective measures had been in place and in use.” 

OSHA identified additional safety and health hazards for Bullins employees, including improper anchorage points for the lifelines, an uninspected suspended scaffold, respirator protection deficiencies, overexposure to respirable dust, fumes and solvents, improper transfer of flammable liquids, smoking while mixing flammable liquids, electrical hazards, and failing to appropriately monitor the inside of the water tank for oxygen-deficient atmospheres before workers entered it. Both employers also were cited for recordkeeping violations. 

In total, Bullins Painting has been issued three willful citations, 16 serious citations, and one other-than-serious citation, with $187,800 in proposed fines while Utility Services Co., was issued one willful, two serious, and three other-than-serious citations, with $93,000 in fines. 

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for worker safety and health, while serious citations are issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. Detailed information on fall hazards and safeguards is available at

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Work Safely When Cleaning Up Snow

With the recent snowstorms hitting the Northeast, OSHA wants to remind workers, employers, and the general public of the hazards associated with snow removal and recovery work.

Common hazards can include:

  • Electric shock from contact with downed power lines or the use of ungrounded electrical equipment
  • Falls from snow removal on roofs or while working in aerial lifts or on ladders
  • Being struck or crushed by trees, branches, or structures that collapse under the weight of accumulated snow
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning from gasoline-powered generators in inadequately ventilated areas or idling vehicles
  • Lacerations or amputations from unguarded or improperly operated chainsaws and power tools, and improperly attempting to clear jams in snow blowers
  • Slips or falls on icy or snow-covered walking surfaces
  • Being struck by motor vehicles while working in roadways
  • Hypothermia or frostbite from exposure to cold temperatures

Means of addressing these hazards can include:

  • Assuming all power lines are energized, keeping your distance, and coordinating with the utility
  • Making certain that all electrically powered equipment is grounded
  • Providing and ensuring the use of effective fall protection
  • Properly using and maintaining ladders
  • Using caution around surfaces weighted down by large amounts of snow
  • Making certain all powered equipment is properly guarded and disconnected from power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance
  • Using and wearing eye, face, and body protection
  • Clearing walking surfaces of snow and ice, and using salt or equivalent where appropriate
  • Establishing and clearly marking work zones
  • Wearing reflective clothing
  • Using engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and safe work practices to reduce the length and severity of exposure to the cold

“Cleaning up after a storm encompasses a variety of tasks, each of which can carry risks if performed incorrectly or without proper safeguards,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “We want people to know what those risks are and what steps they can take to protect themselves against these hazards.” 

OSHA and Scaffold Industry Association Form Alliance to Promote Safety and Health in Construction

OSHA and the Scaffold Industry Association (SIA), South Central Regional Chapter in Houston have formed an alliance with the goal of enhancing workplace safety for construction workers in the states of Louisiana and Texas.

“We welcome this opportunity to join with the SIA toward emphasizing employer awareness of hazardous working conditions in the construction industry,” said Dean McDaniel, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas, Texas. “It is hopeful that this cooperative effort will help prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.” 

Under this agreement, partners will work together to develop educational training programs relating to scaffold and fall hazards, as well as applicable American National Safety Institute (ANSI) consensus standards. The agreement also will establish communication methods for providing information to employers and employees in the construction industry. 

SIA was established in 1972 to protect and promote the interests of dealers and distributors of access and scaffold equipment and manufacturers of scaffold components. Several members from the South Central Regional Chapter are on the ANSI Mast-Climbing Work Platforms and Transport Platforms committees.

OSHA and the SIA signed a national alliance on February 25, 2008, which resulted in creating the Mast Climbing Work Platform Safety Tip Sheet

Through the agency’s Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to safety and health, including businesses, trade and professional organizations, unions and educational institutions, to leverage resources and expertise to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, and share information with employers and employees to help prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace. OSHA and the organization sign a formal agreement with goals that address training and education, outreach and communication, and promoting the national dialogue on workplace safety and health. 

For questions about this or other OSHA alliances or partnerships, call the agency’s Houston South office at 281-286-0583 or its Houston North office at 281-591-2438. 

OSHA Penalizes Two Montana Contractors $71,000 for Unsafe Trenches

OSHA’s Billings, Montana, Area Office has cited two companies, Great Falls, Montana-based Phillips Construction and Meridian, Idaho-based Cascade Pipeline Corp., with penalties of $39,000 and $32,000 respectively, for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act related to unsafe working conditions in trenches. 

“These are different companies and different worksites but similar issues. Trench work can be extremely dangerous,” said Greg Baxter, OSHA’s regional administrator in Denver, Colorado. “Companies need to take the necessary steps to address hazards ahead of time and to educate employees on safe trench operations.” 

OSHA’s investigation disclosed two alleged willful violations, two alleged serious violations, and two alleged other-than-serious violations at Phillips Construction following an inspection at a worksite in Fairfield, Montana. The investigation of Cascade Pipeline Corp., found one alleged willful violation and two alleged serious violations related to an unsafe trench at a Miles City, Montana, worksite.

For both companies, the alleged willful violations stem from a lack of protective systems required for trench operations. OSHA issues a willful citation when an employer exhibits plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. 

The two alleged serious violations against Phillips Construction relate to the misuse of ladders used to enter and exit the trench; and the alleged two other-than-serious violations relate to recordkeeping. For Cascade Pipeline Corp., the alleged serious violations relate to the misuse of ladders and excavated materials being placed too close to the edge of the trench. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which an employer knew or should have known.

OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA’s Website at

OSHA Proposes $62,350 in Fines for New York Printing Plant

OSHA has cited Worldcolor Buffalo for 27 alleged violations of safety and health standards at its Depew, New York, printing facility. The company faces a total of $62,350 in proposed fines following OSHA inspections that began in October 2009.

“Our inspections identified a cross-section of safety and health hazards that must be effectively addressed for the well-being of the workers at this plant,” said Arthur Dube, OSHA’s area director in Buffalo. “Left uncorrected, they expose workers to the risk of lacerations, amputation, burns, hearing loss, exposure to asbestos, electric shock, or being caught or trapped in confined spaces or operating machinery.”

Specifically, OSHA found instances of improper transfer and storage of flammable liquids; lack of specific lockout/tagout procedures and training to prevent the unintended startup of machines during maintenance; lack of hearing protection; inadequate respirator training, fit-testing, medical evaluation, inspection and maintenance; unguarded grinders; blocked access to electrical boxes; electrical equipment not safely maintained in hazardous locations; and accumulation of combustible dust in a work area. 

In addition, the plant lacked a written program and training for employees whose duties require entry into confined spaces, failed to inform workers of the presence of asbestos containing insulation on steam pipes, and failed to provide the Hepatitis B vaccine and training to workers whose duties involved exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. 

These conditions resulted in the company being issued 24 serious citations, with $61,350 in fines. OSHA also issued three other-than-serious citations, with a fine of $1,000, for inadequate recordkeeping, fire extinguisher training and exposure monitoring. 

Brian Karnofsky Jailed for Muscular Dystrophy, Jailers Blocked Bail Website

Brian has been arrested and will be put in jail for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) lock-up. We need to collect $2,000 for the MDA to help bail him out. Your tax deductible donation will help MDA continue research into the causes and cures for 43 neuromuscular diseases. 

If you enjoy reading the Safety Tip of the Week™, now is the time to help us give hope to kids and families that need our help. Brian’s jailers broke his website link, thinking that they could keep him in jail indefinitely. However, the website has been fixed. Now you can click here to help make Brian’s bail and support MDA.

Brian is the President of Environmental Resource Center. Many of you helped bail him out in 2007, 2008, and 2009, but he’s on his way back to jail this year. Don’t bother asking what crimes he’s committed—just know that we need your help bailing him out.

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