Tampa Construction Contractor Fined $100K Following Death of Jobsite Worker
If you provide construction services in Florida, then you know about the importance of workplace safety. Not only do accidents affect your ability to complete a project on time–they can land you in serious legal trouble with federal and state authorities. And even if a safety violation was not willful or intentional, a judge may not see things that way.
11th Circuit: Contractor “Willfully” Violated OSHA Regulations
Take this recent decision from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Edwin Taylor Corporation v. U.S. Department of Labor. Edwin Taylor was hired to construct shells for a condominium complex. As general contractor, it hired a number of subcontractors, including Adelo & Fernanda Construction Inc. Adelo, in turn, hired another subcontractor to handle framing on the project.
One day at the job site, an employee of the framing subcontractor “fell 233 feed through an unguarded opening and died,” according to the 11th Circuit’s opinion. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration subsequently investigated the fatal accident and concluded Edwin Taylor committed three violations of federal safety regulations. The Secretary of Labor then fined the general contractor over $100,000.
Edwin Taylor appealed the Secretary’s decision to the 11th Circuit, which oversees federal cases from Florida. In an unpublished May 19 opinion, a three-judge panel of the appeals court said it could “find no grounds for reversal” of the Secretary’s decision and upheld the fine.
The general contractor’s main point of contention was OSHA’s finding that its violations of safety rules had been “willful.” As the 11th Circuit explained, a “willful violation of an OSHA standard is shown by ‘an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, OSHA requirements.’” In this case, the supervisor at the worksite “knew that fall protection was needed” for any build above six feet in height, which included the condominium project. But according to testimony from Edwin Taylor’s own employees, management “disregarded that risk” and failed to install the necessary protection.
To put it bluntly, the 11th Circuit said, Edwin Taylor “did not instruct anyone at the worksite to install guardrails. Nor did it supply guardrail equipment to the worksite crew–even though the needed equipment was at the job site.” From this, OSHA could logically conclude that Edwin Taylor “willfully” violated safety regulations. The appeal court therefore upheld the $100,000 penalty.
Get Legal Advice from a Qualified Florida Construction Attorney
A construction project requires compliance with a complex set of federal, state, and local regulations. This can add time and cost to the completion of a project. Yet as Edwin Taylor learned, failing to comply can prove even more costly.
The last thing any general contractor wants is to get caught up in years of litigation over a preventable accident. That is why it is important to take safety standards, building codes, and other regulations seriously from the outset of a project. An experienced Florida construction lawyer can provide you with valuable advice, guidance, and representation in these matters. Contact Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A., today to schedule a consultation. We are currently working remotely during the COVID-19 emergency and are ready and able to help you with your legal needs.