MassCOSH Comments on Second Worker Lost in Two Days

April 11, 2014

Directly on the heels of a worker death in central Massachusetts, yet another life was tragically lost on the job just hours later in Nantucket from a fall. Workplace falls are so common and preventable, OSHA and many other agencies have launched awareness campaigns to stem further deaths, said the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) in a statement released today.
According to news reports, Henry Varian, 72, died after falling from scaffold at a Nantucket work site and landed on his back just before 8 a.m. on Thursday.
"The very presence of scaffolding at a job site creates a hazardous work environment," said Dave Knops, Health and Safety Trainer for MassCOSH. “Falls, falling objects, and structure instability are all dangerous possibilities. Employers need to ensure fall protection consists of either personal fall arrest systems or guardrail systems meeting OSHA requirements. The top two cited OSHA violations are for scaffolding, and fall protection."
OSHA's Fall Prevention Campaign webpage states that falls are the leading cause of death in construction. In 2010, it states that there were 264 fall fatalities out of 774 total fatalities in construction. It emphasizes that these deaths are preventable.
According to MassCOSH, immigrants are at an elevated risk of fatal falls. Between 2007 and 2012, eleven of the 50 workers in the construction industry who fell to their deaths were Hispanic, representing 22% of fall deaths while representing less than 10% of the Massachusetts workforce. The organization stresses that fall hazards can be controlled and should not simply be accepted as part of the job.

“Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Varian,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “While we don’t know the circumstances of this death, we do know that nearly all fall fatalities are preventable.”

Later this month, on April 28th at noon, MassCOSH, along with its members and allies, will remember Mr. Varian and other fallen workers at the Massachusetts State House steps to observe International Workers’ Memorial Day. The public gathering is intended to draw attention to workplace fatalities and call for action to be taken at the state level to better protect workers.