HVAC installer Timothy O’Neal Gearing and a co-worker were trying to unjam a saw stuck in a metal roof when the saw jerked loose, causing Gearing to lose his balance and fall through an unguarded skylight. The 39-year-old plunged to the concrete ground 15 feet below and died from his injuries after being transported to a hospital.

OSHA has found that Gearing died because his employer, Martin Mechanical Contractors Inc. of Athens, Georgia, failed to put proper workplace protections in place at the worksite, a new Subaru car dealership in Athens.

“This tragedy was preventable. Martin Mechanical Contractors knowingly exposed its workers to dangerous fall hazards and failed to take action to protect them,” William Fulcher, OSHA’s area director in the Atlanta-East Office.

The agency issued a willful citation to Martin Mechanical for failing to protect workers from tripping or falling into an unguarded sky light. The other violation relates to not reporting a fatality to OSHA within eight hours.

Proposed penalties total $54,000.

Martin Mechanical is a mechanical, plumbing and electrical contractor for commercial and industrial building projects in Northeast Georgia. Another Athens company, Driver Construction Co. Inc. subcontracted with Martin to install a complete HVAC system at the worksite when the fatality happened.

Martin Mechanical has no previous OSHA inspection history.