Investigation Concludes that Worker Fatality Caused by Willful OSHA Violation

Last summer, two roofing and sheet metal company workers fell during the course of their employment at Vikings Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, resulting in the death of one employee and serious injuries to the other. Earlier this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concluded its investigation into the incident, leading to a finding of four serious violations against Berwald Roofing & Sheet Metal Company, the workers’ employer, and M.A. Mortenson Co., the builder and project’s construction manager.

Specifically, the incident occurred when Jeramie Gruber, 35, fell nearly 50 feet while working on the stadium’s roof after sliding down and breaking through a guardrail. His co-worker also slid down the roof, but his fall was stopped when he struck a post, suffering a leg injury that required 48 stitches and staples.

Following its investigation, OSHA issued the following three fines against Berwald

  • $70,000 for a “willful” violation for failing to provide fall protection for its employees working in areas with “unprotected sides and edges”;
  • $44,000 for a “serious” violation regarding “general safety and health provisions”; and
  • $25,000 for a “serious” violation of OSHA’s general duty clause regarding workplace safety standards and maintaining a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

At the same time, OSHA also found that Mortenson violated OSHA standard 1926.20(b)(2), which requires “frequent and regular inspections of the job sites, materials, and equipment to be made by competent persons designated by the employers.” Mortenson was fined $34,300.

Pursuant to OSHA regulations, builders and subcontractors, like Mortenson and Berwald, have a responsibility to their employees to make the workplace safe, especially from known hazards like fall-risks. OSHA standard 1926.501(b)(1) actually requires fall protection for any employee walking or working on a surface raised six feet or more above a lower level with an unprotected side or edge. Even a six foot drop is considered significant under the standards.

OSHA’s finding that Berwald committed a “willful” violation is significant, because this means OSHA concluded the employer “expose[d] employees to harm that the employer intentionally and knowingly commit[ed].”   In New Jersey, a worker is typically limited to workers’ compensation for injuries sustained while on the job, but there are certain exceptions to this rule that allow for an employee to file a work related injury lawsuit against an employer or others, including when intentional or grossly reckless actions by the employer are the cause of the injury.

 

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Shebell & Shebell Get Results For People Injured on the Job

If you or someone you love has been injured at the work place, possibly as the result of a fall or other workplace hazard, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Shebell & Shebell can help. We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, and Ocean County, including Howell, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Wall, Union Beach and Neptune. For a free consultation, call us at 866-957-5237 or contact us online today.

Practice Areas of Shebell & Shebell LLC – Personal Injury Lawyers