Mississippi Contractor Willfully Ignores Fall Protection Standards that Lead to Worker's Death


Ocean Springs, MS (WorkersCompensation.com) - Gerald Moran had completed numerous framing jobs like the one at a new Government Street residence in Ocean Springs. Unlike past jobs, this one claimed his life. On Nov. 3, 2014, Moran and two workers installed balcony ceiling planks when Moran lost his balance and fell more than 20 feet. He sustained fatal injuries and died eight days later.

The company that employed Moran, Thomas Matthews Framing LLC, had not installed safety guardrails on the balcony, which might have saved the life of the 42-year-old father. After learning of Moran's death from news media, inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an inspection that led OSHA to cite the company for safety violations.

OSHA cited the company for one willful and two serious violations, with proposed placement in the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

The Ocean Springs house where Gerald Moran fell to his death.
The Ocean Springs house where Gerald Moran fell to his death.

"This tragedy could have been prevented had Thomas Matthews Framing done what it knew was right and followed OSHA safety standards," said Eugene Stewart, OSHA's area director in Jackson. "Employers cannot choose when to follow these practices. The lives of their workers depend on it."

OSHA issued Thomas Matthews Framing a willful citation for allowing employees to work at heights greater than 6 feet without guardrails or fall protection. 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.

Two serious citations were issued for not providing guardrails on scaffolding more than 10 feet above a lower level and not training workers to recognize and prevent fall hazards. Other violations include not reporting a fatality to OSHA within eight hours. 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.

Thomas Matthews Framing has no previous OSHA inspection history. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Proposed penalties total $58,700.

To increase awareness of fall prevention, ensure compliance and target enforcement activities to reduce injuries and fatalities, OSHA has created a Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction*.

OSHA has also created a fall prevention Web page with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.

Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows that fatal work injuries in Mississippi accounted for 64 of the 4,405 fatal work* injuries reported nationally in 2013. Additional details are available at http://www.bls.gov

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