OSHA fines Bend contractor after temporary staircase collapses in Gresham, injuring one worker

Oregon OSHA has fined a Bend contractor more than $15,000 following an accident investigation found the company failed to protect workers from fall hazards on a multistory apartment construction job in Gresham.

The division cited SGS Development LLC for three job safety violations – two of them repeat offenses – including failing to ensure a temporary wooden staircase had the structural integrity to support employees before allowing them to use it for access as they worked.

As one worker walked down the staircase, the temporary structure collapsed. The worker fell 18 feet onto the concrete ground floor. The worker suffered a spinal injury, multiple back, leg, and body fractures, and loss of consciousness.

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. While such accidents are not uncommon on construction sites, they are preventable.

“The requirements to protect workers from falls are clear, as are the measures employers can take to identify and effectively address such hazards,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. “As this case demonstrates, the consequences of choosing otherwise are all too real.”

Oregon OSHA launched an investigation of SGS Development in June in response to the accident at the apartment construction site in Gresham. In addition to citing the company for a serious violation for exposing workers to a structurally unsound temporary staircase, the division’s investigation found the company committed two repeat offenses – both connected to fall-protection failures.

Oregon OSHA maintains rules for construction activities that specify the minimum height at which workers must be protected from falling. SGS Development failed to implement fall protection systems – such as a personal fall restraint system or other measures – where employees were exposed to falling six feet or more to a lower level.

Instead, the company allowed three employees to install temporary wooden staircases with no fall protection measures in place, exposing them to falls of up to 22 feet. Meanwhile, SGS Development failed to provide two employees with fall protection training.

The company was cited for neglecting the same minimum height and training requirements in December 2017, involving a different under-construction apartment complex.

Under Oregon OSHA rules, penalties multiply when employers commit repeat offenses. The citation against SGS Development carries a total proposed penalty of $15,625. The fine amount includes a standard penalty reduction based on the small size of the company.

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