Workers demolishing a three-unit, three-story residential building in Brooklyn's Prospect-Lefferts Gardens section were exposed to potentially fatal falls due to their employer's failure to provide and ensure the use of lifesaving fall protection. As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $45,200 in penalties against Brooklyn contractor US Demco of Brooklyn Inc. for one willful and seven serious violations of workplace safety standards.
"On at least two occasions, an OSHA inspector discovered US Demco employees working on the second- and third-floor levels without fall protection, even though US Demco had knowledge of this deadly and avoidable hazard," said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.
OSHA's inspection identified other fall hazards at the 50-54 Clarkson Ave. location, including missing guardrails for planking used by the employees to access different sections of the second- and third-floor levels, and the failure of a competent person - one with the knowledge and authority to identify and correct fall hazards - to oversee the work. Employees faced dangers of lacerations and broken bones from being struck by falling construction materials and debris and electric burns and shock from handling ungrounded power tools.
OSHA cited US Demco for one willful violation for the lack of fall protection and seven serious violations for the remaining hazards. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.
US Demco of Brooklyn has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.