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Michael_D_NapolitanoOn April 3, 2012, a worker was killed and four others were injured when a crane belonging to Yonkers Contracting Company collapsed near West 34th Street in Manhattan at a construction site for the No. 7 subway line.

Six months later, federal investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the contractor for “alleged serious violations of workplace safety” including failure to conduct required inspections that would have identified defects on the crane.  The company was also cited for allowing a worker inside the crane’s fall zone, for not ensuring that a rigger was properly trained and for failing to adequately inspect the wire ropes used to hoist materials.

OSHA determined that due to the failure to follow the required safety practices, the incident and injuries and death resulted when the worker was struck by a crane boom after the wire rope used to raise and lower the boom broke, causing it to fall.

Yonkers Contracting (which has a spotty history including the fatal fall of a painter on the Manhattan Bridge in 2000) faces $68,000 in fines.

OSHA is the federal agency that is responsible for ensuring safe and healthful working conditions.  It is charged with setting and enforcing protective workplace and safety standards.  OSHA requires that employers provide workers with a safe and healthful work environment.

When a catastrophe, such as a fatality, occurs at a workplace (4,609 workplace fatalities occurred in 2011), OSHA inspections are initiated without advance notice.  When an inspector finds violations of OSHA standards or serious hazards, OSHA may issue citations and fines.  A citation includes methods an employer may use to fix a problem and the date by when the corrective actions must be completed.

It is imperative that employers do everything in their power to ensure that their workers are safe and the workplace is free from hazards.  When accidents occur at a worksite, OSHA is obligated to hold employers accountable.   OSHA must do everything in its power to remedy the hazard and encourage compliance with safety standards.  The health and safety of workers must be paramount and OSHA must make sure that accidents such as the one described above are extremely rare and when they do occur, the response, both remedial and punitive, must be swift and decisive.