February 20, 2015 — OSHA has proposed penalties of $114,800 for as Sherwood Tower Service to two Willful violations and one Serious violation in the death of a painter who died in a tower fall on Aug. 10 2014.
Thomas Lucas, 49, was painting a 500-foot tower owned by Midwest Tower Leasing when he fell nine stories to his death. He was wearing a safety harness but was not tied off. He was employed by Sherwood Tower Service, which is based in Terre Haute, Indiana, and operated by James Michael Sherwood. He was the ninth tower fatality of 2014.
“Three children are without a father because of a preventable tragedy. No one should have to endure such a painful loss ever,” said Jacob Scott, OSHA’s area director in North Aurora. “OSHA has seen a disturbing trend in preventable deaths and injuries in the telecommunications industry.”
The much more serious violation, known as Willful, was proposed because the tower service company allegedly did not provide fall protection for the employee while he ascending, descending, and moved around on the tower, exposing him to a fall hazard. The penalty proposed was $70,000.
“Inspecting and making sure protective equipment is in use and working properly is a common-sense safety procedure that saves lives and prevents injuries,” Scott said. “Companies that ask their employees to work above the ground have a responsibility to provide adequate fall protection to workers”.
The second Willful violation, which has a proposed penalty of $42,000, was proposed because Sherwood allegedly allowed the tower worker to use a defective positioning device system.
The positioning device harness used by the tower worker should have been replaced because it was heavily painted and showed visible signs of wear, damage and deterioration, OSHA investigators found.
A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health, according to OSHA.
The lesser violation, known as Serious which came with a $2,800 fine, was proposed because Sherwood allegedly did not initiate and maintain an accident prevention program.
This OSHA action is not final. The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and accompanying penalties. A Notice of Apparent Liability, or fine, will be issued next.