Deadly Fall Leads to Manslaughter Charges Against Owner and Foreman

The death of a 51-year-old carpenter in San Francisco in December of 2012 has lead to manslaughter charges filed by San Francisco District Attorney against the worker’s employer and foreman. A criminal investigation by Cal/OSHA determined that Versaggi Construction failed to provide fall protection training to its workers at the site, and that foreman Jim Fitt was aware that Plancarte had cobbled together a prohibited type of scaffolding in direct violation to the employer’s own safety program.

Salvador William Versaggi, owner of Versaggi Construction, along with foreman John Fitt pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 to the manslaughter charges and two counts of violation of the labor code.

“When our investigations uncover potentially criminal behavior by employers, we exercise our full jurisdiction not only to protect workers but to also make referrals to the District Attorney for prosecution where appropriate,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Relations’ (DIR). Cal/OSHA is a division in DIR.

On December 26, 2012, Jose Plancarte was assigned to lower a window frame opening in the main stairwell of a residential construction site at 40 Edgehill Way in San Francisco. Plancarte built a nailed-bracket scaffold and used two scaffold planks to access the window located more than 18 feet above ground. Plancarte was not wearing fall protection and the scaffold did not have guardrails. He was found unresponsive at the base of the stairwell, having fallen 18.5 feet to the concrete basement floor. Plancarte was transported to San Francisco General Hospital, where he later died from his injuries.

“When preventable deaths occur, employers must be held accountable,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “The indictments are a testament to the close working relationship between Cal/OSHA and the San Francisco District Attorney and our commitment to ensure that criminal behavior in the workplace is addressed.”

“Employers in California are required to provide the necessary protections for their workers in order to prevent a tragedy such as this”, said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “With the significant amount of construction going on in San Francisco right now, it is more important than ever for everyone to follow all the rules and regulations around a job site.”

Cal/OSHA’s civil investigation resulted in the issuance of four citations with penalties totaling $25,870 on March 29, 2013, including two citations for serious violations.

Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch provides free and voluntary assistance to employers and employee organizations to improve their health and safety programs. Employers should call (800) 963-9424 for assistance from Cal/OSHA Consultation Services.

Download Cal/OSHA’s “Guide to working safely with supported scaffolds”.

Source: Cal/OSHA  |  2015 © Copyright Payroll Masters

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