OSHA proposes $160K in fines for formwork failure-rooted fatality

Sources: Occupational Safety & Health Administration Region 5, Chicago; CP staff

OSHA has cited Schofield, Wis., concrete contractor Lewis Consruction Inc. and Menomonie, Wis., general contractor Cedar Falls Building Systems for failing to adequately brace formwork while pouring a 10-in.-thick, 10- x 28-ft. concrete wall. The structure was part of a proposed Chippewa Falls, Wis., sand plant for Houston-based natural gas producer EOG Resources; its collapse resulted in the death of one Lewis Construction employee and injuries to three others.

At the time of the December 2010 accident, five crew members were working from elevated walkways attached to framework on both sides of the concrete form. The willful violation for which both contractors have been cited is not adequately bracing formwork to be capable of supporting all vertical and lateral loads. OSHA has proposed penalties of $130,000 for Lewis Construction and $30,800 for Cedar Falls Building Systems.

“[They] willfully ignored known construction safety procedures by failing to ensure adequate bracing to support recently formed concrete walls,” says OSHA Area Director Mark Hysell. “Employers are responsible for knowing what hazards exist in their workplaces and taking all precautions to ensure workers are not exposed to risks that could result in injury or death.”

A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health, OSHA notes. Additional citations to Lewis Construction involve allegedly failing to perform formwork inspections prior to, during and after concrete placement; removing formwork prior to ensuring adequate strength of the poured concrete; exposing workers to fall hazards of approximately 10 feet without fall protection; not fully planking scaffolding platforms; not cleating the end of scaffolding planks or ensuring they were extended a minimum of 6 inches beyond supports; using damaged scaffolding planks; and, a lack of adequate access and egress to and from scaffolding platforms.

In the five years prior to the Chippewa Falls site accident, OSHA inspected Lewis Construction once, resulting in a serious citation, and Cedar Falls Building Systems four times, resulting in four serious citations. OSHA has placed Lewis Construction in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance.