Officials with the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration are investigating the death of a 20-year-old Mexican man who was fatally injured in a fall at a Georgia construction site this month.

William Fulcher, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Atlanta East Area office, which covers Augusta and Columbia County, said the agency was “actively investigating” the incident to determine whether safety regulations were violated at the construction site.

Fulcher said OSHA takes falls seriously because they are one of the leading causes of worker deaths in the United States, and most are preventable.

“Fall accidents in construction account for about 30 to 40 percent of all the fatal accidents that OSHA investigates here in Georgia,” he said. “A fall can occur from anything, a scaffold, a ladder, working on a roof, or during a framing operation at a home site. The general rule for construction fall protection starts at 6 feet.”

Above that height, employers are supposed to provide “positive fall prevention” measures, such as railings, safety harnesses and safety nets to prevent injury to workers, he said.

“What we find in most cases, when I say most almost 100 percent of the cases, is that something was overlooked or disregarded that resulted in an accident, such as someone didn’t tie off or someone did not provide the positive fall protection required,” he said.

In addition, employers are required to provide training to workers on what hazards they will encounter and how to avoid them, in the worker’s native language, which Fulcher said can sometimes be a problem.

“It all falls back on the employer,” he said. “If all they hire are Spanish-speaking employees, either they need to be speaking Spanish also or have a translator so the communication can be effective.” 

Excerpts from this article were taken from the Colombia County News Times