DALLAS, Tex. – Construction worker Jorge Carrion Torres, 44, died after falling from a third-story balcony of an apartment complex in Dallas where he was working last May. Mr. Torres, who had been on the job for just one month, was applying a stucco underlayment to the balcony walls when he fell.
According to federal regulators, his Phoenix, Arizona-based employers, Design Plastering Inc. and Design Plastering West LLC, had neglected to install protective scaffolding or provide Mr. Torres and his coworkers with fall protection equipment.
The deadly incident marked the eighth time the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Design Plastering for fall-related hazards that threatened the lives of its workers. Unfortunately, the companies failed to comply with federal safety regulations and Mr. Torres paid for their errors with his life.
OSHA’s regional office in Dallas investigated the circumstances surrounding Mr. Torres’ death and cited Design Plastering with eight egregious willful violations and four serious violations, with proposed penalties totaling more than $407,000.
“When an employer fails to put up a guardrail or scaffolding, or doesn’t provide personal fall-arrest systems, anyone working at a height of six feet or more is defenseless against a fall,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
“This senseless loss of a man’s life is the result of this employer’s failure to comply with clear OSHA safety requirements despite the fact that it had been previously cited for the same violations,” Dr. Michaels added. “Design Plastering has been cited … in the past for fall hazard related violations. Clearly, these penalties were not sufficient to deter this employer’s unlawful actions.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that construction worker deaths accounted for one out of every five private industry worker deaths in 2014. Falls continue to be the leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for nearly 40 percent of 2014’s construction fatalities, with similar rates in past years.
Texas leads the nation in construction worker deaths. According to OSHA, Mr. Torres’ death was the second “egregious case” involving the lack of fall protection in the state recently. Earlier this year, a construction worker in Houston whose employer denied him a safety harness suffered severe injuries after falling through a roof.