I still have to question not only the time for the investigation, but now a BIG QUESTION on the only minor "chump change" OSHA issued for a fine. The $12,000 fine is truly an insult to the other workers employed by this contractor and, especially to the worker's family. How can OSHA not take into consideration the many fines in the past for this contractor where it seems as they have become lax and using Donkey Sense in their safety practices. If OSHA continues to let contractors get by with minimal fines for fatalities is beyond my comprehension.
I urge readers to go to the article's comment section to get other comments along the same direction that I have taken on this incident.
L&A fined in death of worker
L&A Contracting Co., a prominent local firm with an extensive portfolio of construction projects in the Southeast, was fined $12,700 for workplace violations that led to the death of an employee in March.
Tim Bright, 38, of Purvis, an employee of L&A, died March 22 of injuries he sustained during the collapse of a ditch on Lois Lane in Lamar County.
Bright and several construction workers had been working in the ditch, building a form to pour concrete on, when the ditch wall collapsed.
Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson office director, said L&A was charged with three violations, including not having "a protected system" for trench or ditch workers, not conducting daily safety inspections by a trained official and not providing employee training sessions on ways to prevent hazardous accidents at the site.
OSHA's investigation took almost six months.
Payne said L&A officials had paid the fines. The company also has agreed to implement safety regulations to prevent other hazards, Payne said.
Larry Gunn, L&A's attorney, said safety procedures were in place at the site and added that "the specific worker involved didn't follow the procedures they were instructed on."
However, OSHA's Payne said that it is ultimately employers' responsibility to make sure safety procedures are being followed.
"It's very common for an employer to say that an employee didn't follow my safety rules when an accident happens," Payne said.
Lee Sims, president of L&A, said the company had implemented OSHA's requirements.
"It was a regrettable accident," he said. "We've put (it) behind us."
Bright's wife, Tina, declined to comment about OSHA's findings or whether she was planning or had taken legal action.
Penalties imposed by OSHA consist of fines for infractions that vary from "other" to the most dangerous - willful - meaning the employer knew or should have known that the violation occurred.
The maximum fines that OSHA levies vary from $7,000 for a serious offense to $70,000 for a willful citation.
L&A is a Hattiesburg-based firm that is owned and managed by the Sims family of Hattiesburg. Ray Sims is chairman and his son, Lee, is president. The firm has extensive construction projects throughout the Southeast.
This is not the first time L&A has been found to violate OSHA's safety requirements. From 1999 to 2005, the company had a total of 18 violations and was fined $245,828, according to OSHA records. After negotiating with OSHA, the company paid $107,300 in settlements.
Payne said L&A sent his office a letter, explaining safety changes the company has agreed to make in the wake of the OSHA findings.
Among them are employee training on various safety measurements when working in a ditch or trench.
Ditch or trench safety measures include installing a hydraulic support mold, using a trench box or cutting back the trench wall, according to OSHA's standards.
"A trench (or) a ditch, those are all terms that describe a removal of dirt, places where you dig in the ground," Payne said.
He said L&A agreed to have an employee trained to conduct daily inspections of a construction project.
"These were the requirements that they weren't in compliance with," Payne said.
Pat Crispi, a New York-based attorney who specializes in personal injury litigation including construction site accidents, said of OSHA's findings: "I don't think it's the amount of money that's going to make a big deal. OSHA fines could hurt a company's reputation if the information is made available."
"This may not be the end of it," he added.
Payne said OSHA is continuing its investigation of American Air Specialists of Hattiesburg whose three employees died March 21 when a trench they were working in collapsed.