Lack of guardrails, other fall hazards result in fines

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Washington, DC, has cited Suffolk Construction Co. of Boston for alleged repeat, serious, and other than serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an inspection at a Boston construction site and has proposed penalties totaling $53,700. Most of the citations were related to fall hazards.

Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, reports that the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection initiated Nov. 25, 1998, after OSHA was informed of possible fall hazards at a construction site located at the Regal Bostonian Hotel on North Street in Boston.

Suffolk Construction is the general contractor overseeing renovation of and construction of an addition to the hotel.

In that role, Suffolk has overall responsibility for ensuring compliance with all applicable construction safety standards for the project.

The inspection identified several instances of inadequate or nonexistent fall protection on the second through seventh floors which left various subcontractor employees exposed to falls from locations as high as 70 feet above the ground, Gordon reports. She notes this is the third time in the past two years that OSHA has cited Suffolk under OSHA’s fall protection standard.

No falls occurred, but "that good fortune in no way relieves an employer of the responsibility of ensuring that required safeguards are in place and in use," she says.

The citations and proposed penalties include an alleged repeat violation, with $35,200 in proposed penalties, for failure to equip unprotected exterior wall openings on the second through seventh floors with guardrails to prevent falls of up to 70 feet.

The other alleged repeat violation involved tripping hazards posed by uncovered floor holes. The company has previously been cited by OSHA for substantially similar violations.

There are seven alleged serious violations, with $18,500 in proposed penalties. The particulars of the violations are:

  • Employees working on tubular welded scaffolds on the seventh and fourth floors were exposed to falls greater than 10 feet due to a lack of proper fall protection.

  • Midrails were not installed at exterior wall openings on the sixth floor.

  • There were inadequate wire rope guardrails on the seventh and fourth floors.

  • Ladder access openings on the second through seventh floors were not equipped with required guardrails.

  • Perimeter floor openings on the second through seventh floors lacked toeboards to prevent materials or tools from falling to lower levels where people were working.

  • Piles of materials, scrap lumber, and metal studs were strewn throughout the seventh and fifth floor working area creating tripping hazards near passageways and unguarded open floor edges.

  • The company’s designated competent person (one with both the knowledge to spot hazards and the authority to correct them) did not conduct frequent and regular safety inspections of the job site.

    There was one alleged other-than-serious violation with no cash penalty. It involved masons and laborers accessing a scaffold platform by climbing onto it rather than by the use of ramps, ladders, or stairs.

    The company can contest the fines and did not return phone calls seeking comment.