Head injury to 13-year-old worker leads to fines

Two agencies of the U.S. Department of Labor have fined Pulte Homes of Ohio in Solon a total of $37,750 following injuries sustained on May 18 by a 13-year-old Middlefield youth who was working at a Twinsburg, OH, construction site.

The Department’s Wage and Hour Division issued civil money penalties to Pulte totaling $28,750 for child labor violations while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the firm an additional $9,000 for workplace safety violations. OSHA also issued an $1,800 penalty for safety violations to John Kuhns, doing business as J.K. Builders, a subcontractor at the job site.

Teen was working in prohibited occupation

The child labor violations alleged by the Labor Department include employment of a minor under 14 years of age, employment of two minors under 16 in a prohibited occupation, and employment of a minor in violation of hours during which children are permitted to work.

OSHA alleged that Pulte violated worker safety protections by failing to regularly inspect for safety on the job site and for the lack of an effective safety and health program. Kuhns was cited by OSHA for failing to implement an effective safety and health program, unprotected floor holes, the lack of a safe means of access for employees to all work areas, and failing to have a competent person perform frequent and regular safety inspections.

The youth was working with a crew of carpenters on a residential construction project in Twinsburg when he fell approximately 10 feet onto a concrete basement floor. He had been stapling insulation to a wall section lying on the floor and stepped into an unseen window opening framed into the wall.

The window opening was directly over a floor hole to the basement. The youth was carried on a helicopter ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was initially listed in critical condition with head injuries sustained in the fall. He has since recovered from his injuries.

Federal child labor laws allow minors under 16 to work outside of school but restrict the hours and times they may work. They may work no later than 7 p.m. (9 p.m. June 1 through Labor Day). They may work no more than three hours on school days and eight hours on nonschool days and no more than 18 hours during school weeks and 40 hours during nonschool weeks.

Pulte Homes of Ohio may pay all the proposed penalties or file a letter of exception with the Wage and Hour Division regarding the child labor penalty assessments, appealing all or part of the fine. The firm and Kuhns may appeal the OSHA penalties to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.