OSHA fines companies for teen’s death in Cullman

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CULLMAN, Ala. – On Monday, July 1, 2019, a 15-year-old Guatemalan roofing worker fell to his death from the roof of Cullman Casting in south Cullman. He fell through insulation in a gap left by the removal of old roofing, dropping 50 feet to a concrete floor inside the building.  The youth reportedly lived in Vestavia Hills near Birmingham, and, according to Cullman Police Department (CPD) Lt. Todd Chiaranda, was employed by W and W Roofing, a subcontractor hired by primary contractor Apex Roofing to work at the site. 

On Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor fined the roofing company nearly $160,000, according to The Tribune’s media partner, WVTM 13. The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ruled that Apex Roofing and Restoration LLC and a subcontractor were found to have exposed employees to fall hazards at the worksite and had not properly trained workers.

WVTM said the Labor Department is also investigating the companies for child labor violations.

The companies have 15 days to dispute the OSHA fines, comply or meet with agency officials.

According to witnesses at the scene in July, neither the youth nor other coworkers on the roof were wearing safety harnesses. 

CPD Investigator Chuck Shikle told The Tribune at the time, “I talked to the foreman, and he said that every morning he issues safety equipment.  Some choose to use it, some–most–choose not to use it.”

CPD Investigator Adam Clark said the foreman stated he had run a safety line on the roof and issued safety harnesses, but also said witnesses on the scene indicated that none of the workers on the roof were wearing harnesses.

Under Alabama law, according to a release sent to The Tribune in July by the Alabama Department of Labor, teens as young as 14 can have summer jobs, but “No one under 18 should work on or in connection with roofing operations.”

The victim’s brother, also employed by W and W Roofing, witnessed the accident. Co-workers reported July 1 was the boys’ first day on the job.

Alabama Code 25-8-35 prohibits teens under 16 from working in jobs:

  • In the building trades, except that persons 14 or 15 years of age who are members of the immediate family of the contractor may be employed in trades involving nonhazardous duties or occupations.
  • Repairing, painting, or cleaning buildings or structures while working at the top of ladders, lifts, or scaffolds exceeding a height of six feet.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com