An Akron company is appealing two workplace-safety citations it was issued in connection to the March 2012 death of one its employees at the construction site for PARTA's Kent Central Gateway transit center.
Lockhart Concrete Co. worker Russell Hirschfelt, 49, of Barberton, was walking between a stack of concrete panels and the rear of a 2006 Caterpillar excavator just before 11 a.m. March 27 when the excavator moved and pinned him between the machine and concrete.
Hirschfelt died that evening at Akron City Hospital due to injuries sustained in the accident.
Lockhart Concrete is appealing the two citations it received for “serious” violations from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to Howard Eberts, OSHA's area director for Cleveland.
Eberts said the citations, with a combined penalty of $8,820, were issued to Lockhart Concrete on July 11 and that company officials contested them on Sept. 20.
“The company has a right to contest to citations they don’t agree with. It’s a normal part of the process,” Eberts said. “(Cases are) assigned to an administrative law judge … for a hearing, and that has not happened yet. We try to negotiate a settlement if we can during the timeframe between the appeal and the hearing.”
The first “serious” violation OSHA cited Lockhart for was not having an established safety zone around the hydraulic excavator to prevent employees from coming within its swing radius.
Among the abatement requirements OHSA has imposed on Lockhart:
- Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for hydraulic excavators which state, “WARNING! Prevent serious crushing injury. Do not allow others within the safety zone. Death or serious injury can result from contact with the moving parts of the hydraulic excavator, attachment or load.” OSHA pointed out that the manual also states, “Make sure that you are aware of personnel or machines that may be hidden in the blind spots on the worksite, such as piles or stacks of material …”
- Designate a dedicated signalman and safety zone around the hydraulic excavator during operation. Sound the horn prior to any operation to warn others of the potential hazards.
- Develop a safety plan for material storage that prevents material from being stored in the swing radius of the hydraulic excavator.
The second “serious” OSHA violation against Lockhart was for not instructing each employee “in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his/her environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.”
According to OSHA statistics, being caught in or between objects is one of the top four causes of construction worker fatalities in the United States.
There were 721 construction worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2011, OSHA reports. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls (35 percent), struck by object (10 percent), electrocution (9 percent) and caught-in/between (3 percent).
Lockhart Concrete was working on the Gateway transit center site as a subcontractor for PARTA 's general contractor, Pennsylvania-based Quandel Construction Group. Only Lockhart was cited in connection to Hirschfelt’s death.
According to OSHA, Lockhart Concrete has no prior citations from the labor department for safety or other job-site violations.
Neither Lockhart nor PARTA officials wished to comment on this story.