OSHA calls for fine against company following the death of two workers who fell down an elevator shaft

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OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION officials have proposed $23,280 in fines against subcontractor World Wrecking and $32,000 in fines against GenCorp, the prime contractor for demolition and asbestos abatement on a Washington Ave. hotel development project where two workers were killed in June.

By TIM ROWDEN

Editor

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited World Wrecking and Scrap Salvage Services Inc. after two of its workers fell to their deaths in June in an elevator shaft in St. Louis.

OSHA is proposing penalties of $23,280.

Joey Hale, 44, and Ben Ricks, 58, both of St. Louis, were working in a spider basket suspended inside an elevator shaft on the sixth floor of the former International Shoe Building, which is being converted into a hotel, on June 4 when the cable holding the basket snapped.

Hale and Ricks were working for World Wrecking, a subcontractor of GenCorp, cutting out the elevator shaft when the fatal accident occurred.

MULTIPLE FAILURES

OSHA said World Wrecking:

• Failed to make sure the workers used a vertical lifeline or other “fall protection;”

• Failed to conduct regular inspections of scaffold equipment;

• Failed to train workers to recognize and avoid hazards; and

• Failed to properly ground an electric motor used on the scaffold.

OSHA also proposed fines of about $32,000 for GenCorp, the prime contractor for demolition and asbestos abatement on the project, stating the company:

• Failed to protect workers from an electrocution hazard;

• Failed to have the scaffold and its components “inspected by a competent person to ensure that a complete fall protection system was in place.”

OSHA said Hale and Ricks weren’t attached to independent “vertical lifelines” as is standard safety procedure on such jobs.

‘NOT OPTIONAL’

OSHA announced its findings and proposed fines last week. “Providing fall protection for employees working at heights is not optional and can prevent tragedies,” Bill McDonald, director of OSHA’s St. Louis area office, said in a statement.

GenCorp issued a statement in June claiming that World Wrecking had a signatory contract with Laborers Local 42 on the project and that Hale and Ricks were both union members. Both had formerly been union members but were not active members at the time of the accident.

World Wrecking had signed a one-time agreement on this job with Laborers Local 42 in January to perform cutting torch work, but the Local 42 members working on the project were let go in March shortly after the union filed a safety and health complaint with OSHA regarding improper asbestos containment and failure to properly address fall hazards at the jobsite.

At the time they were let go, the Local 42 members who were originally working on the job were told the cutting torch work they were performing was ahead of schedule and the rest of the job was running behind so there was no work for them to perform.

World Wrecking then replaced them with Ricks and Hale, the two men who were killed.

Local 42 has been working to organize employees of GenCorp.

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