DANVILLE — A Berwick subcontractor employing a man who fell to his death Wednesday was found in violation twice of not having fall protection, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The violations occurred in 2008 and 2010 with Masonry Preservation Services, of Berwick, according to OSHA reports examined Friday.
Stephen Kuchka, 48, of Berwick, fell about 100 feet from scaffolding while working on restoring yellow brick on the western side of the Foss Clinic at Geisinger Medical Center.
Montour County Coroner Scott Lynn said he died instantly of multiple injuries. The accident happened as he and two others were preparing to take a lunch break and to descend the scaffolding. Lynn said the scaffolding had been raised about 9 1/2 stories.
OSHA spokeswoman Joanna Hawkins said Friday that initial information shows the victim fell from a mast climbing scaffold. She is deputy director of the office of public affairs in the Philadelphia regional office.
She said the company had been inspected about 12 times before this accident. The history dates to 1985.
She said OSHA has up to six months to complete its investigation of the fatality.
Geisinger spokesman Mike Ferlazzo said since the investigation is focused on the work of an outside contractor and not Geisigner, the investigation report, which he said typically takes months to complete, will be directed to that company.
Masonry Preservation Services was cited for duty to have fall protection on July 21, 2010, and paid a penalty of $2,310 on July 26, 2010, according to the OSHA report. The company also was cited for duty to have fall protection on Dec. 9, 2008, and paid a penalty of $780 on Dec. 19, 2008, the report states. Another citation, issued May 29, 2008, was for wiring and design protection with a $350 fine paid on June 10, 2008.
Four citations for general requirements were issued May 19, 1999, with a $245 fine paid June 8, 1999, according to OSHA. An OSHA inspector issued five citations for general requirements Nov. 24, 1997, with a $475 fine paid Dec. 1, 1997. Also included was a violation for general medical services and first aid, OSHA reported.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics census of fatal occupational injuries reported 54 fatalities in 2009 from scaffolds and staging. In a bureau study, 72 percent of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident to planking or a support giving way or to an employee slipping or being struck by a falling object, according to OSHA.
Employers are required by OSHA standards to have a qualified person provide training to each employee who does work while on a scaffold. The training must enable employees to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and to understand the procedures to control or minimize those hazards.
OSHA defines a qualified person as one who possesses a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing and has extensive knowledge, training and experience.
When OSHA revised its scaffolds standard in 1996, Bureau of Labor Statistics studies showed 25 percent of workers injured in scaffold accidents received no scaffold safety training and 77 percent of scaffolds weren’t equipped with guardrails.
An area industry source said Friday there are many types of scaffolding and if a worker is in what is known as a fall-protected area he wouldn’t need to wear a harness. A fall-protected area includes a scaffold with handrails or guardrails. “If you have open guardrails and take a load from a forklift, you have to put a harness on,” the source reported.
He said there is a load limit on every size of scaffolding with types of scaffolding including hanging and platform.
“Once you set up a scaffold, you should be able to move it up and down without a problem,” he said.
The most dangerous times with scaffolding are when setting it up and taking it down, he said.
Two other industry officials declined to comment.
Jason Williams, president of the Central Susquehanna Builders Association, could not be reached for comment about scaffolding and harnesses.