ELLABELL, GA – Federal workplace safety investigators have determined a construction contractor could have prevented a 34-year-old steel worker from suffering fatal injuries – after a 60-foot fall at a Hyundai electric car plant in Ellabell – by following legally required safety procedures.A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation into the April 2023 incident found that workers employed by Eastern Constructors Inc. had been guiding an I-beam in place atop the plant’s paint building when the fall occurred. One worker, walking along the top of the building’s upper frame lost his balance and fell, resulting in the sharp edge of the structure cutting his safety line. Despite efforts of emergency personnel who arrived soon after, the worker died at the scene.OSHA determined Eastern Constructors Inc. failed to ensure workers were provided fall arrest equipment that was appropriate for the work conditions and capable of resisting sharp edges, which exposed employees to fall hazards. The company also exposed employees to fall hazards by not taking worn and damaged fall arrest systems out of service.OSHA cited Eastern Constructors Inc. for one willful and one serious violation and proposed $160,724 in penalties, an amount set by federal statute. For the company’s plain indifference and willful violation, the agency has placed Eastern Constructors Inc. in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.“The risks of serious and fatal injuries for people working at these heights are well-known and no step should ever be overlooked during the process of inspecting the worksite for hazards,” said OSHA Acting Area Office Director Jessica Bookman in Savannah, Georgia. “Eastern Constructors’ failure to protect its employees from the leading cause of death in the construction industry are inexcusable and resulted in tragic consequences.”Since 2016, Eastern Constructors, Inc. has been inspected in response to four other worker fatalities. These inspections resulted in serious and willful violations for hazards related to steel erection, including fall protection. As such, the employer will be added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program intended to focus enforcement efforts on noncompliant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.Based in Geismar, Louisiana, the commercial construction contractor provides services throughout the Southeast and employed 13 people at the Ellabell site.Eastern Constructors Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.Visit OSHA’s website for information on developing a workplace safety and health program. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards.
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