If Southern Chills, a Homestead-based contractor, had not ignored the construction industry’s most dangerous hazard, Leonardo Javier Lopez-Montelo might be alive today.
The 33-year-old laborer fell nearly 11 feet through an unprotected stairway opening as he performed punch-list activities at the Kendall Square housing complex construction site in Miami, and suffered fatal injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reported in a news release.
A OSHA investigation of the June 29, 2016, incident found that the stairway opening had no guardrails or cover as required, the federal Labor Department agency said in a statement. Lopez-Montelo’s employer was aware that the opening was unprotected, investigators also found.
For construction industry workers, falls are the leading cause of work-related death. Four in 10 workers die in preventable falls each year.
As a result of the fatality, OSHA has issued eight citations to Southern Chills Inc., Capri Construction Corp., SB Painting & Waterproofing Inc. and Brothers Carpentry Corp. for safety violations. Combined, the four contractors face $91,536 in penalties.
The project’s developer, Lennar Homes LLC contracted with Miami’s Capri Construction as the shell contractor at the job site. Capri then contracted with Homestead-based Southern Chills to perform carpentry work such as installing second floor deck, trusses and sheathing. Following the fatality, Capri contracted with Brothers Carpentry, a West Park finish carpentry contractor, to replace Southern Chills and Lennar hired SB Painting, of West Palm Beach, to paint the exteriors and interiors of the homes.
“This was a preventable incident,” Condell Eastmond, OSHA’s area director in Fort Lauderdale, said in a statement. “Capri and Southern Chills failed in their responsibility to protect their employees and chose to ignore the need to install the necessary fall protection system which would have saved Leonardo.”
OSHA issued Southern Chills two repeated citations for failing to protect workers from falls up to 11 feet with a guardrail or personal fall system and not training employees to recognize fall hazards or procedures while working at elevated levels.
OSHA also issued serious citations to Capri, SB Painting and Brothers Carpentry for failing to protect workers from fall hazards with a guardrail or personal fall system. Additionally, the agency cited SB Painting and Brothers for not training workers to recognize fall hazards while working at elevated levels, and cited Capri for exposing workers to fall hazards due to a lack of frequent inspections to ensure hazardous conditions did not exist or were corrected.
The citations for the four companies can be viewed at: