A scaffolding collapse at Binghamton University in New York last June resulted in six injuries and a thorough investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This week, OSHA presented the results of its investigation and announced thousands of dollars in fines for two companies – a Syracuse-based roofing contractor and an out-of-state subcontractor who had been entrusted with scaffold construction.
The shortcomings and subsequent hazards OSHA investigators found at the site were blatant. The safety system used to secure the scaffold, a set of chains designed to hold the bridge, were completely absent.
While OSHA could not figure out who had removed the chains or why, they determined that the subcontractor in charge of ensuring the scaffold’s safety had not placed a competent person in charge of the process. By their logic, anyone with an idea of their role and the work would have noted the clear hazard posed by a scaffolding system without safety chains.
The companies that were fined, as with similar situations, have a specific amount of time within which they may contest OSHA’s findings. If they fail to do so, the administration’s findings will stand.
Scaffolding collapses are an extremely serious and ever-present danger at construction sites. When companies decide to cut costs, manpower or time spent on safety, it’s the construction workers who suffer.
Construction workers in New York have the protection of New York Labor Law Sections 200, 240 and 241, enacted to provide increased worker safety for dangerous consruction jobs. Civil lawsuits that hold owners and general contractors accountable for not providing proper and adequate safety devices for workers help make dangerous worksites safer for all workers. And, they ensure that the corporations with the power to make safety a priority bear the cost of the harm and not workers and their families, or ultimately the taxpayers.