A chance to get on-the-job training in construction turned tragic when a Delaware high school student suffered a severe head injury after a one-story fall off an unguarded balcony at a local construction site.
How it happened
In the July 2014 accident, the young man was hurt while removing construction debris from an unguarded balcony at a new, multifamily construction site as a cooperative education student employed by Bear, Delaware-based Reybold Homes Inc. OSHA inspectors responded to the scene to investigate and determined the company willfully exposed him to fall hazards by not providing proper safeguards.
"This young man suffered a preventable injury that requires ongoing treatment, and may affect future employment," said Erin G. Patterson, director of OSHA's Wilmington Area Office.
OSHA cited the company for one willful violation, with a $70,000 penalty, for failure to protect the teen worker from the fall by providing legally required protections.
A serious citation was also issued because the worker never received training. This violation carried a $7,000 penalty.
Cooperative education, also known as "co-op," allows high school students to integrate classroom learning with supervised, paid work experience. The Cooperative Education and Internship Association reports that approximately 1,000 colleges and universities in 43 countries, with 76,000 employers and 310,000 students, participate annually in co-op.
Falls in the construction industry
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports falls to lower levels accounted for 27 percent of all worker fatalities in Delaware in 2013, the most recent year with available data. Nationally, falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).