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Employer fined for safety violations in workers death

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the owner of a company $57,000 for numerous violations in a fatal accident at a Georgia college. The work accident happened on Sept. 20, 2013, at East Georgia State College in Swainsboro. A 42-year-old worker fell to his death from scaffolding while applying stucco to a dormitory.

OSHA fined the employer, Smiley Plaster Co., for numerous safety violations, including one willful violation of the law. Others included failure to provide adequate scaffolding foundation, failure to brace scaffolding and failure to provide debris protection. Additionally, the company was said to have failed to report the incident for more than eight hours, which led to another violation.

The willful violation suggests that the company knew that it was not providing adequate protection but continued with the unsafe work conditions anyway. OSHA has set out safety standards for companies in a wide variety of industries. However, companies do not always comply with those standards. Failing to provide safe working environments can result in fines and other penalties for employers.

If a deceased worker's family chooses to decline collecting workers' compensation death benefits and instead pursue wrongful death litigation, the OSHA violations may be used as proof of negligence for the civil claim. If a deceased employee had dependents, the family could seek compensation to replace his or her lost income in addition to any medical bills and final expenses that they incurred. If a worker's death was instead caused by a third party, however, the family could file a claim against the third party while still collecting workers' compensation death benefits.

Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle, "OSHA fines Smiley Plaster after worker death", Jacques Couret, March 20, 2014

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