Anatomy of a triple fatality citation: Judge rules OSHA didn’t understand industry standards

Originally published by Wireless Estimator

An OSHA Review Commission Judge has vacated a proposed $12,934 OSHA penalty against tall tower erection firm Tower King ll, Inc. of Cedar Hill, Texas that was issued following a tragic accident on Sept. 27, 2017 when a gin pole broke loose from a 958-foot WSVN TV tower in Miami Gardens, Florida after its bridle slings failed, killing three erectors, one of whom was the owner’s stepson.

It was found by OSHA’s and Tower King’s investigative teams that the reason the bridle slings failed was because of an engineering error. In calculating the load forces, the Stainless engineer hired by Tower King to provide an engineering review of their rigging plan made a “grievous error.” He assumed the connection points were seventy 70 feet apart rather than twelve 12 feet. This error caused the engineer to understate the load forces by a factor of at least 4.5.

Following an investigation, OSHA issued Tower King a single citation alleging a serious violation under the catch-all general duty clause, alleging that Tower King exposed employees to fall and struck by hazards posed by overloading of the rigging components resulting from its failure to have a complete rigging plan for the equipment attached to the tower.

Tower King owner Kevin Barber informed Wireless Estimator that it was very costly to mount a rigorous defense, but he said, “We knew we were right and we wanted the truth to prevail.”

It did, and in Judge Heather A. Joys’ decision that will be filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on July 17, 2019, essentially, OSHA was attempting to impose requirements on the industry that went far beyond the industry’s ANSI/ASSE A10.48 consensus standard, according to Tower King’s lead attorney, Tod T. Morrow of Morrow & Meyer, LLC of Canton, Ohio.

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