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Jon Pina. MS CSP

Case Synopsis:

The plaintiff was injured when he fell approximately fifteen feet while attempting to remove temporary light fixtures. He fell from an elevated mezzanine at a construction project and landed on a concrete floor. The plaintiff was walking in an unauthorized area, referred to as the Controlled Access Zone (CAZ), to all employees the defendant who was placing floor grid pieces in place from underneath with the aid of a scissor man lift. The plaintiff was walking on the grid that had been installed the day before when he fell through an open section. The construction manager had protected the "leading edge" approximately 10' away with a flagged 3/8� rope that acted as the warning line. There is conflicting testimony as to whether or not the flagged warning line was in place prior to the accident and how far back from the leading edge. The Construction Manager failed to manage safety by not developing an onsite Safety and Health Program that included work requirements, site audits, Job Safety Analyses (JSA), and safety meetings.

Expert Analysis:

The defendant's safety expert provided documentation, according to OSHA regulations, that it was the construction manager's responsibility, as the controlling employer under OSHA's Multi-employer Directive, to coordinate the activities of the various contractors and their subcontractors. It was also the plaintiff's employer's responsibility to provide personal protective equipment and training and assure that the trainees were trained.

The Construction Manager failed to manage safety by not developing an onsite Safety and Health Program that included work requirements, site audits, and safety meetings. Falls from elevated surfaces is the leading cause of fatalities and disabling injuries on construction sites. According to the latest National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12% of the fatal occupational injuries in 2003 occurred as a result of falls. Falls to a lower level accounted for 86,946 non fatal injuries in 2002.

Fall protection is among the most frequently violated and cited by OSHA and should be addressed as a priority. Fall protection in the construction industry is required for all work six (6) feet or higher from a lower level. Standard handrails w/midrails or barricades that can withstand a 200 pound force in a downward manner are the preferred protection in preventing falls. Safety net systems, below work surfaces, where practical, are an alternative to handrails or personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE, full body harness with a shock absorbing lanyard and double locking hooks would be an acceptable, but less preferred method, compared to the standard handrails/barricades. The employer must supply the employee with the proper PPE, have a written PPE program, and also provide adequate training.

The plaintiff, a qualified trainee from a foreign country received fall training and a full body harness from his employer prior to being assigned to this site. His difficulty with the English language placed him in a dangerous position since he did not always understand warnings, but gave indications that he understood when he really didn't. The plaintiff should not have entered the CAZ and was considered "out of his work area" regardless of the taped being in place or knocked down. The defendant's employees had no reason to climb up or walk on the grid and relied on the construction manager to coordinate safety with others.


The case was settled favorably for the defendant.

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Jon Pina, MS, CSP, is a Safety, Health, & Environmental Expert. With more than thirty years experience in safety management, loss prevention, construction and demolition, coal, chemical, steel, and hazardous waste abatement, Mr. Pina can observe cases from a well-rounded viewpoint of a Safety and Health professional, construction manager, and "hands on" worker. Among his most notable accomplishments, he has held the position of Construction Manager on many large-scale demolition projects. He also has demonstrated expertise in areas such as the operation of chemical plants and gained field experience as a union journeyman pipe fitter.

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