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ERI Installations, Indiana OSHA Settle Tower Fatality Probe

Several violations, fines reduced; ERI revises tower training program

ERI’s tower installation subsidiary, ERI Installations, and the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration have reached an agreement concerning last April’s fatal tower climbing accident.

On April 13 two men who worked for ERI Installations fell some 340 feet and died while helping to build a 500-foot tower in Indiana for the WASK Radio Group.

In September, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a $91,500 fine for ERI Installations for alleged safety violations in connection with the accident.

ERI Installations asked for a hearing, saying that some of IOSHA’s information was not correct.

The hearing process is now complete and ERI said that though each party recognized certain strengths and weaknesses in their respective positions, they chose to compromise rather than pursue costly and time-consuming litigation.

ERI VP of Marketing Bill Harland told Radio World the job-site accident was “tragic” and said “the defenses asserted and the ensuing negotiations and compromise should not be construed as dishonoring the individuals affected by this accident.”

In the initial findings, the Indiana OSHA said the men were exposed to fall hazards while riding the pole connected to the jump line of the gin pole, a vertical pole or assembly piece used in the construction of tall towers. It also claimed the men were not provided with adequate fall protection and that load limits were not properly marked on some of the crew’s equipment.

ERI objected to several of the assertions, saying they were not accurate.

The Indiana OSHA agreed with ERI on several of its points and reduced the severity of several violations and fines to $18,000, roughly just under a quarter of the original proposed amount, according to a copy of the just-settled agreement obtained by Radio World.

Possibly the most serious allegation in the original IOSHA finding concerned fall protection. That has been changed from a “knowing” violation with a proposed $21,000 fine to a “serious” violation with a final $7,000 fine. ERI “is not admitting to failing to provide fall protection,” states IOSHA and that part of the agreement now reads: “the employees were exposed to fall hazards while performing duties on the tower being erected.”

Harland said one of the most important things to come out of the accident is ERI Installations created and implemented a revised training program and on-site installation protocol. ERI Installations developed a gin pole and tower erection training program where all installation crew members are trained at ERI’s facility.

The course is open to anyone, according to Harland, even tower climbers who would not necessarily be installing an ERI structure. The company believes this is the first formal program taught by engineers who have experience in rigging as well as tower and gin pole design and manufacture.

ERI could not comment further on the settlement, citing that the statute of limitations on a possible law suit expires April 13, 2013.

A spokesman for IOSHA said the agreement, which was negotiated between ERI Installations and the Indiana Department of Labor, must still be formalized by being presented in April to the Indiana Board of Safety Review to become a final order.