Contractor Cited for Tower Collapse that Killed W.Va. Firefighter

Aug. 05--The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Hulbert-based S&S Communication Specialists Inc. for two serious workplace safety violations. Each violation carries a $7,000 penalty.

S&S Communication was the contractor on a project in Clarksburg, W.Va., to modify an existing cellular communications tower. The modifications included replacing diagonal bracing and installing leg stiffeners and new guy wires.

The tower collapsed while employees were removing diagonal bracing, OSHA said. Two employees and a volunteer firefighter died in the Feb. 1 accident, while two other employees and another firefighter were injured.

Kyle Kirkpatrick, 32, of Hulbert and Terry Lee Richard Jr., 27, of Bokoshe, were the S&S Communication employees killed, according to local police reports. Volunteer firefighter Michael Garrett, 28, died at a hospital from his injuries after being struck by a second tower that collapsed from the fall of the first tower.

OSHA cited S&S Communication for not using temporary braces or supports and for allowing employees to be tied off to bracing that wasn't capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds.

S&S Communication has 15 business days from the receipt of the citation to comply, request an informal agency conference or contest the proposed penalties.

Paul Krepps, S&S Communication's attorney in Pittsburgh, said the company plans to meet with local OSHA officials to get further clarifications.

Prentice Cline, OSHA's area director in Charleston, W.Va., said the agency is concerned about an increase in communication tower deaths. Thirteen workers died in communication tower accidents in 2013, more than the previous two years combined, OSHA said. Nine workers have died so far in 2014.

"These deaths are a painful reminder of the dangers associated with communications towers, and are at the root of OSHA's directive on communication tower construction activities," Cline said in a news release.

OSHA fined S&S Communication $3,000 in 2009 after a worker fell more than 300 feet from a communication tower near West Plains, Mo. The agency cited S&S Communication in two serious violations for not having proper fall protection systems.

Copyright 2014 - The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

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