Case Synopsis: Two construction company employees were working on a flat canopy roof when they fell through it and landed approximately 20-25 feet below onto a brick surface at a casino renovation site. Both men suffered injuries as a result of the roof collapse they were working on. They fell through the roof of an existing roof/canopy covering a walkway leading out of a pedestrian tunnel.
Since heavy equipment had not arrived yet the construction company employees were allowed by the owner and general contractor to start removing the existing roof manually. The existing roof material was to be removed but the steel beams were to remain to be used for the construction of a new roof. The existing roof had a layer of wood within that was rotted in several areas.
Expert Analysis: The Plaintiff's safety expert provided documentation, according to OSHA regulations, the Plaintiff's employer was not the controlling employer nor responsible for the manner and methods employed. It was the employees of the owner and general contractor that walked on the roof and delineated the unsafe areas with marker paint. A general contractor employee even walked on the roof when the injured party was manually making cuts.
It is 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. However, the controlling employer is not responsible for the manner and methods employed by specialty contractors unless they get involved by directing and supervising the subcontractors.
Falls from elevated surfaces is the leading cause of fatalities and disabling injuries on construction sites. 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). A 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. There were no anchorage points provided or required by the controlling employer for the men to tie off to. However, the preferred method was to use heavy equipment and allow no one to walk on the roof.
Result: The case was settled favorably for the plaintiff a week after I (Plaintiff Safety Expert) was deposed. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Jon J. Pina has over thirty years of experience in Safety Management, Loss Prevention, Consultation for Demolition, Construction, Coal, Chemical, Steel and Hazardous Waste Operations. Mr. Pina's experience includes Construction Manager, Chemical Plant Operator, Plant Maintenance and Union Pipefitter. He is an independent consultant and is presently on the faculty of Indiana University of PA Safety Science. Mr. Pina has also taught environmental, earth and space science for five years in the Pennsylvania public school system.
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