OSHA is continuing its investigation at the Baxter International worksite after a worker’s 30-40-foot fall last Thursday, but the injured worker was released from the hospital Monday with a broken wrist and is recovering, a company representative said Thursday.
Spokesman Lindsay Williams confirmed that OSHA is investigating the construction site following the fall, but said he couldn’t give any details as the agency doesn’t issue any preliminary or interim reports.
"Under the OSH Act, OSHA must complete its investigation within 6 months and issue any findings concerning whether any OSHA standards were violated," Williams said in an email.
The injured worker is with Greensboro, N.C.-based Steel Performance, and the company’s vice president, Charlie Johnson, said the man will return to light-duty work when he’s cleared by doctors. Chris McFadden, a spokesman with Turner - the company that hired Steel Performance as a subcontractor - said the company expects "to welcome (the employee) back to work next week."
Despite the height of the fall – the company is doing steel erecting at the site – Johnson said the worker avoided more serious injuries because he was following proper protocol.
"He was tied off, and he did all the things correctly, and still it happened; that’s part of the process, but his equipment worked, and we felt like it significantly broke the fall and did what it was supposed to do in that regard. It shouldn’t have fallen at all, but still he did have his fall-protection equipment on, and it worked," Johnson said Thursday.
Johnson said he couldn’t comment on OSHA’s investigation except to say the company provided all the information OSHA requested and is working with the agency. The company also did its own investigation.
"We’ve evaluated our equipment, and we’re retraining employees and making sure they’re doing everything right and making sure we’ve provided the best possible equipment for them so this won’t happen again," Johnson said.
McFadden added, "Additionally, we have sent the equipment for forensic testing. Based on the outcome of the forensic analysis we may take additional action. In the meantime, Steel Performance has purchased new retractable safety harnesses and the site is now fully-active."
The company closed the site for a short period last week following the fall, but operations were back up and running quickly.
"There was a very minimal stoppage of work to do the investigation, and all of that has been gone through," Johnson said.
Last week an Atlanta-division OSHA official, speaking in general about the process, said an OSHA investigator would walk the worksite to identify hazards, take photos, interview construction employees and notify the company of any issues found. The official said OSHA expects all workplace hazards to be remedied as soon as possible, but if any serious violations are found, OSHA can issue citations, including fines up to $7,000.
Williams said the employer "has an opportunity to settle or contest any proposed violations or penalties."
Newton Emergency Medical Services Director Kevin Johnson said last Friday that local emergency officials had worked and will continue to work with construction officials at the Baxter site to be prepared for any future incidents.
"Personnel from the Baxter site construction group were helpful in activating rescue personnel and assisting us at the scene with the patient.
"Public safety personnel (EMS and Newton County Fire Department) have been reviewing with Baxter personnel on how to respond to just these types of incidents. Those plans were in place and will continue to be reviewed for success as the construction site progresses," Kevin Johnson said in an email.