February 15, 2018
The Kiley Law Group
On January 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited and fined the construction company behind a workplace fatality in the summer of 2017.
Six months prior, on July 11, 2017, OSHA opened an inspection into the Schnabel Foundation Company after a 2,600-pound rock crushed a worker to death. Mark Camire, 32, was a husband, father of two daughters, a son and a friend of many in his community. At the time, his death had been the ninth workplace death in 2017.
“‘Be careful, Mark,’” his dad, Guy Camire, recalled telling Mark to the Boston NBC affiliate NECN. “He said, ‘don’t worry dad, don’t worry dad.’”
He died the next day at the worksite.
“It’s loose rock foundation, irregular rocks not mortared in place and you’re working with equipment that close… he should have never been in front of that wall,” said Guy Camire. “I told them they need to learn from all this and that this can’t happen again.”
OSHA had promised to look into the accident, which occurred when the boulder fell on Camire as he worked under the foundation of the Woburn Public Library. The work included a $9.9 million construction grant to add a 2.5-story wing to the landmark.
Schnabel was charged $212,000 in proposed penalties following the January 5th report which said that they had failed “to protect employees against crushing hazards while they installed permanent foundation supports beneath the Woburn Public Library.”
Additionally, the contractor was cited for failing to instruct employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions while working beneath the foundation. Unfortunately, OSHA had already cited the company for similar hazards in 2015 “when an employee was pinned by a granite block that came loose,” the report said.
“Failure to supply proper safeguards and training has led to a needless and avoidable death,” said OSHA Andover Area Office Director Anthony Covello. “It is imperative that employers train their employees, and equip them with the necessary tools to prevent crushing and other hazards.”
OSHA’s standards set up requirements that require employers to protect construction workers from accidents and injuries.
When compared to other states, Massachusetts has a lower rate of workplace injuries. Still, according to a report by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), 2016 saw the highest number of workplace fatalities on record in 10 years, with 70 Massachusetts workers losing their lives. Many were in construction.
Comparatively, just 32 died in 2012, seeing the death rate in Massachusetts double in just four years.
In a Boston Globe article, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Co-Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb said: “the rise in deaths reflects the increase in workers employed by subcontractors and staffing agencies that are less invested in worker safety.”
Organizations like OSHA and the Massachusetts State Department of Industrial Accidents are in place to protect employers and employees. OSHA violations on the part of employers can incur large fines for companies and are usually violations because they threaten either employee or public safety. Even if negligence is not involved, Workers’ Compensation can cover workplace injuries and costs. When negligence is involved, it’s even more important to discuss the situation with a lawyer.
OSHA estimates that employers pay out nearly $1 billion per week to Workers’ Compensation in direct costs alone. “Direct costs” include Workers’ Compensation payments, medical expenses and costs for legal services. Beyond that, they also estimate that employers face fines such as the one imposed on Schnabel, costs to train replacement employees, investigate the accident, implement corrective measures, loss of productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.
See also: Our original blog on the story – “If You Have Employees, Know Your Responsibilities” – which covered this event, as well as the top 10 most common workplace deaths and responsibilities of employers.