A 27-year-old laborer lost his life ended suddenly because his employer failed to have a competent person inspect the rail supporting a scaffold system nearly 80 feet off the ground for visible defects, an investigation by OSHA has found.

Both men were wearing fall protection

On Dec. 8, 2015, Leonardo De Jesus and a co-worker were on a "swing-stage" suspended scaffold installing a high-bay pallet storage system for a new Kroger distribution center in Forest Park. The men were half way up the scaffold system attempting to realign sections of the rail to move the scaffold. Suddenly, the rollers supporting the scaffold came off the rail causing the scaffold to fall approximately 40 feet to the ground. While both workers were wearing fall protection, De Jesus's fall protection came off the rail and he fell nearly four stories. His co-worker was left suspended by his fall protection and was recovered with minor injuries.

OSHA issued Reich Installation Services Inc. two willful and two serious safety citations on June 13, after the agency investigated De Jesus's death and a worker's injury.

Disregard for details

"Reich Installation's disregard for the scaffold's installation specifications and the lack of an inspection, after encountering problems, caused this preventable death," said Keith Hass, OSHA's acting director of the Atlanta-West Office. "Reich management was advised by a third-party of proper scaffold methods and should not have put these workers at risk."

One willful citation relates to the fatality for not having a competent person inspect for visible defects in the support system such as rail sections not being connected and gaps between the joints that caused the rollers to come off and the scaffold to fall. The second willful was issued for exceeding the scaffold's maximum intended load.

The serious violations involve the employer's failure to ensure employees operating a swing-stage scaffold were trained by a competent person to recognize hazards such as design criteria and maximum load capacity and not ensuring the anchor points used for fall protection were capable of supporting 5,000 pounds.

Proposed penalties total $121,800.