In July 2014, a Delaware high school student suffered a head injury after a one-story fall off an unguarded balcony at a construction site. The young man was hurt while removing construction debris from an unguarded balcony at a new, multifamily site as a cooperative education student employed by Reybold Homes Inc. OSHA inspectors responded to the scene to investigate and determined the company willfully exposed him to fall hazards by not providing proper safeguards.
"This young man suffered a preventable injury that requires ongoing treatment, and may affect future employment," said Erin G. Patterson, director of OSHA's Wilmington, Del., Area Office. "Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe working environment and safe work practices."
OSHA cited the company for one willful violation, with a $70,000 penalty, for failure to protect the teen worker from the fall by providing legally required protections. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
A serious citation was also issued because the worker never received training. This violation carried a $7,000 penalty. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Cooperative education, also known as "co-op," allows high school students to integrate classroom learning with supervised, paid work experience. The Cooperative Education and Internship Association reports that approximately 1,000 colleges and universities in 43 countries, with 76,000 employers and 310,000 students, participate annually in co-op.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports falls to lower levels accounted for 27 percent of all worker fatalities in Delaware in 2013, the most recent year with available data. Nationally, falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.
A division of the Reybold Group, the Bear-based company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.