Recently in Texas, two men were seriously injured on the job. In some ways, their circumstances looked very different. They were in different cities, working for different employers. One was repairing a roof, high above the ground. The other was in a trench, about eight feet down. But in both cases, their employers neglected to provide basic, commonsense protections – a harness for the man on the roof, or a safe means of egress for the man in the trench. As a result, both men wound up in the hospital with preventable injuries.
The Fall and the Collapse
Falls kill workers, but they are completely preventable. In the first case we announced today, a temporary worker was sent to a work on a roof without fall protection – even though he’d requested a safety harness. When he fell through the roof, he fractured both arms and got severe contusions. By law, employers are required to report such incidents within 24 hours. Neither his employer, Cotton Commercial USA Inc., nor Gardia Construction, the company that supplied Cotton with laborers, did so. In fact, Cotton waited three days to report the injury, one of seven violations for which the company was cited today.
Trench cave-ins are also preventable. In fact, the ancient Greeks had advice on preventing deadly trench collapses more than 2,500 years ago. But Hassell Construction Co. Inc. sent its workers into dangerous trenches without providing sufficient protections. In the second case we announced today
, a worker was engulfed when a trench collapsed on him. His coworkers dug him out just moments before it collapsed again. Hassell was cited for 16 safety violations.
More than 3 million workers suffer serious injuries every year – and that’s just the injuries employers are required to report to OSHA. Another 4,500 workers are killed on the job. These aren’t accidents – they’re preventable, and often predictable, tragedies. They have devastating consequences for workers, their families and their communities.
The companies involved in these cases have both been fined. And Hassell was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program
. But the truly devastating consequences of injuries like these are far too often borne by working families. Injuries like these can create lasting medical problems. They can force families out of the middle class and into poverty, and crush a family's hope of entering the middle class.
Employers have the knowledge to prevent catastrophes, and the responsibility to provide it. There’s no excuse for profiting at the expense of a worker’s safety.
John Hermanson is an occupational safety and health regional administrator for region VI.