CARTERET COUNTY — The N.C. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division investigated two workplace-related deaths in the county in 2019, and both incidents were related to falls on the work site.

The first fatality occurred Jan. 29, 2019, according to information provided by NCDOL public information officer Neal O’Briant. The employer was Delmas Lancaster, a framing contractor based in Pine Knoll Shores.

“On January 29, 2019, an employee was unloading 2x10 boards from the forklift’s tines and had grabbed three boards at once. The employee was pulled off balance, fell to the ground, and was struck in the head by one of the boards,” reads information included in a summary of the inspection.   “Emergency Services worked on the employee for at least 45 minutes before attempting to transfer the employee to an airlift service for transportation to a hospital; however, the employee died before the transfer could be finalized.”

Mr. O’Briant said following an investigation into the incident, the state OSH Division cited the employer for one alleged serious violation of OSHA standards. OSHA standards require employers provide fall protection for employees engaged in construction activities 6 feet or more above a lower level. The violation carries a $2,800 penalty, which the company paid.

Mr. O’Briant noted civil penalties for OSHA violations are allowed by state general statutes through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina. The maximum penalty is $7,000 for a serious violation.

“The General Statutes say that the Labor Department has to take into consideration various factors such as the gravity of the violation, the size of the business, the good faith and cooperation of the employer, and the history of previous violations,” Mr. O’Briant wrote in an email to the News-Times. “By law, the civil money penalties collected by the N.C. Department of Labor are not the receipts of the department, but rather must be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund, which then distributes the monies to the public school systems.”

The second and final fatality of the year investigated by the OSH Division happened in April 2019. The employee worked for Pine Knoll Shores-based NC Drywall LLC.

“At 7:45 a.m. on April 25, 2019, an employee was installing sheetrock from a masonry scaffolding,” the inspection summary reads. “A wooden plank slid, causing the employee to fall 16 feet to the concrete floor. He was admitted to the hospital, where he later died.”

Mr. O’Briant said the employer received three citations for alleged serious OSHA violations in this case. The first standard requires employers provide frequent and regular inspections of the job sites, materials and equipment. The second standard NC Drywall allegedly violated requires all working levels of a scaffold be fully planked or decked. The third standard requires employees working on a scaffold 10 or more feet above a lower level be protected from falling through a personal fall arrest system or guardrails.

Each of the three citations carried a $2,800 penalty, but Mr. O’Briant said the company requested an informal conference and the penalty amounts were reduced. NC Drywall now has to pay $2,500 per violation for a total fine of $7,500. The company requested a payment plan to pay off the penalty and has been making regular payments.

The OSH Division of the NCDOL investigated 53 workplace-related fatalities in 2019, according to a release from the department last month. Falls were the leading cause of death in the incidents investigated, though the NCDOL noted not all work-related fatal incidents are under the OSH Division’s jurisdictional authority and are therefore not included in the division’s count.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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