Negligent Worker Safety Practices Result in Worker Paralyzed After 40-foot Fall

NJ subcontractor found to have routinely missed front-end loaders and other equipment to support scaffold platforms

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A 30-year-old construction worker returned from a holiday weekend on July 6, 2015, ready to install gutters on new apartment and condominium buildings at 1323 West Chester Pike in West Chester. It was his first day on the jobsite, and his last as a builder.

As a rough terrain forklift raised a makeshift platform on which he stood up three stories to the roof, the platform toppled and the man fell 40 feet onto the rubble below. The worker suffered serious and permanent injuries, including paralysis from the waist down.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that followed the incident found that the man's employer, High Quality Builders Inc., a Bordentown, N.J., subcontractor routinely misused front-end loaders and similar pieces of equipment to support scaffold platforms.

The company also failed to provide fall protection and did not properly train workers to recognize fall hazards. For these and other violations, OSHA issued citations for eight serious and two repeat violations, with $72,880 in penalties. 

OSHA cited High Quality Builders for similar violations in March and June 2015. This was the second fall suffered by a company employee in 2015.

The agency also cited the jobsite's general contractor, TJ Ward Plumbing Heating & Commercial Services LLC of Media, Pennsylvania for eight serious violations, including lack of fall protection and the improper use of powered industrial trucks. The violations carry $24,500 in penalties. 

"This tragedy could have been averted if these two companies had not been so careless about worker safety," said Nicholas DeJesse, director of OSHA's Philadelphia Area Office. "A young man is now confined to a wheelchair because of the disregard of the employers at this site for the safety and well-being of their workers. Their actions are inexcusable and will not be tolerated.."

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The companies have 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.