Following the receipt of a complaint about an unsafe construction site last October, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an investigation. The site was that of a building being renovated in Santa Barbara. Investigators found multiple life-threatening safety hazards on and around the scaffolding structure that could lead to a serious construction accident. Cal/OSHA issued a stop work order that prohibited any workers using the scaffold until hazards had been adequately addressed.
However, when safety officials returned to the site about 10 days later, they found that the stop work notice had been removed, and workers were once again expected to put their lives on the line to earn their wages. The safety violations included the lack of a ladder to provide access to the structure’s upper levels as well as the lack of guardrails to prevent falls. Furthermore, the scaffold was not built on a steel base plate to provide stability to the structure.
It is against the law for anybody other than a Cal/OSHA official to remove a stop work sign, and this company was criminally charged for that violation. It was reported that it pleaded no contest to the criminal charges in March, and it received a probation sentence of three years. During this investigation, it came to light that a worker suffered serious injuries in an unreported accident in August. The company received citations for 12 safety violations, and penalties of $54,000 were proposed.
Enforcement action by Cal/OSHA may bring about compliance with safety regulations by employers. Unfortunately, some business owners will continue to prioritize profits rather than workers’ safety. Injured victims of a construction accident may pursue compensation through the California workers’ compensation insurance system. All medical expenses related to work-related injuries are typically covered by the insurance program along with a percentage of the victim’s average weekly wages if injuries caused an absence from work.
Source: workerscompensation.com, “Cal/OSHA Cites Employer Who Violated Stop-Work Order and Failed to Report Serious Injuries“, April 13, 2016