Call us if you have legal questions. Steve Lombardi is a personal injury lawyer in Iowa.  If you, your spouse or a member of your family or friends are involved in any kind of accident contact the Lombardi Law Firm. We can assist you with your claim. Don't delay, call today. 
Steve Lombardi, Attorney

Today is all about law school. The University Of Iowa College Of Law to be exact. A great law school with a fine reputation and some lousy contractors hired to replace the windows at the law school building.

Examination Question #1: Why does OSHA have a standard for fall protection?

It's ironic that a worker who died at the Univ. of Iowa Law School may not have been wearing fall protection. After all fall protection is what the law requires. So why isn't anyone talking about the facts surrounding his death? The ultimate answer is an explanation as to why he died and whether or not it was preventable. Yes, we know he is dead, but why? Was he wearing fall protection gear? Was a lanyard available? If one was provided and he wasn't wearing it, why wasn't he wearing one? Why was he being allowed to work without fall protection gear?  Is fall arrest gear required?  

That's an odd way of characterizing fall protection gear: fall arrest safety gear. Why call is fall arrest gear?

Iron Worker Falls 19 Stories - Due to high winds, the welding cable came into direct contact with the steel ... Workers should ensure that their fall protective equipment is in ... The men had been working above this second welding machine the day before but chose that ... Also, welding leads must be protected from physical damage while in use. ...

Examination Question #2: Why do they refer to it as fall arrest? (Perhaps, because falls on a construction site are inevitable and predictable.)

Classes in labor law, workers' compensation and administrative law at the law school now have a concrete example to work with and to research. This is what lawyers do after law school. We work with life, death and serious injuries that cause families more than textbook losses. Wives and children are left behind to fend for themselves when construction workers die on the job. Like the death itself, hunger is real to a ten-year-old that lies awake at night crying themselves to sleep after being told their father won't ever come home. This is real life, this is the tough part of practicing law - this is the ultimate responsibility for a personal injury lawyer.

Roofer Falls Through Sheet Metal - The University of Iowa College ... - A 20-year-old sheet metal worker, part of a crew constructing a new metal ... The man was not wearing any fall-protective equipment and suffered fatal head and neck ... Falling off a purlin, if only 8 inches high, would significantly ...

Examination Question #3: How would you tell the widow, her husband's death was preventable?

Most of us aren't the slick stereotypical lawyer the politicians describe. Real life pi lawyers are more akin to gumshoe investigators hard working, harder nosed with hearts hardened by thousands of real life sad stories with no good ending. From across wooden leather topped desks stare wetted eyes looking to the lawyer for how to pay the grocery bill. To them the lawyer is their safety net. There are no fast cars, faster women or slick shiny suits; only a box of Kleenex the lawyer tosses their way. That's what lawyering is all about for me; Kleenexes and putting food on the table. To date, what are the facts we know about Mr. Fosdick who died?

NIOSH FACE Program - Iowa Case Report 03IA021 - Company-built personnel platforms on extended boom forklifts must comply with ANSI ... operator can actuate to shift the frame back to level before a lift is initiated. ... metal catwalk about 20 feet below, where his co-worker was located. .... In this case, the victim was not wearing any type of fall protection, ...

Examination Question #4: How do you feed a widow and four orphans after the breadwinner has died?

Facts: A 49-year-old worker fell and died last Wednesday while working on the U of I Boyd Law Building in Iowa City. That's about it. That's what we know, but really is that all there is to know? No. What happened that allowed Tom Fosdick, a 49-year-old man from Cedar Rapids to fall to his death. The general contractor (GC) on the job is noted to be Miron Construction of Neenah, Wisconsin. Fosdick was working for Swanson Glass, a subcontractor on the exterior renovation project at the law school. Sources tell me they took Mr. Fosdick to the auditorium apparently trying to save his life. The law school was in session. The students were in classes. After work resumed workers on a lift were heard to say the equipment hadn't been working right and no one bothered to take the time to fix it. Why not? What equipment? Who knew? Who, if anyone continued to allow it to be used? Who was responsible for running the job site? Who was in charge of safety? Who, who, who...

Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, often referred to as the General Duty Clause, requires employers to "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees". Section 5(a)(2) requires employers to "comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act".

This story is all about fall protection and why it wasn't being used. In a story by the Iowa Press-Citizen Miron's director of risk management noted the company has completed 6,000 projects since September 1995. Great, 6000 projects, that's nice but what about the fall protection equipment?  No one seems to be talking about the facts, like how and why the man was killed. What was he doing? How high was he? Was he wearing a lanyard for protection if he should fall? Was he more than 15 feet off the ground? Law students should know that it's not what they are willing to talk about publicly that is important; more important is what they don't talk about.

Note: Twenty-four states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

Examination Question #5: Who do you sue and where do you file the suit when a construction worker dies while on the job?

I've written previously about fall protection for construction or building and ground maintenance workers. See Construction Site Accidents section on the Lombardi Law Firm website. At the LLF site if you do a search within the site for "fall protection" you'll see there are over 1,900 results to choose from.

On March 26, 2010 it's noted the top ten fines from OSHA include fall protection sitting in the number 3 spot and probably rising. Let's Look At The Top Ten OSHA Fines. Here are the details after which a safety video is in order. If the GC isn't going to enforce rules then construction workers need to protect themselves. It's that simply. Going to a work on a construction site is one thing, but coming home is quite another. It reminds me of mountain climbing and what they say about the summit. Getting to the top means you're only half-way home.

Scope. This section covers powered platform installations permanently dedicated to interior or exterior building maintenance of a specific structure or group of structures. This section does not apply to suspended scaffolds (swinging scaffolds) used to service buildings on a temporary basis and covered under subpart D of this part, nor to suspended scaffolds used for construction work and covered under subpart L of 29 CFR part 1926. Building maintenance includes, but is not limited to, such tasks as window cleaning, caulking, metal polishing and reglazing.

Examination Question #6: What agency will investigate this accident, how and when can you get the entire investigative file?

Workers need to know their safety equipment and to push aside supervisors who ignore safety rules. Having the right safety equipment is and how to use it correctly could save your life. If you aren't schooled in the how's and why's then visit the Miller Fall Protection on the Miller site and read or contact the sales rep and let him visit with you about the right fall protection equipment. The solutions can be uniquely tailored to your own situation. They have permanent and temporary solutions for roof top work. If the GC and your supervisor want to act like knuckleheads, it doesn't mean you have to join them. You can also do a general search on Google for fall protection. Here are some statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

A preliminary total of 4,340 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2009, down from a final count of 5,214 fatal work injuries in 2008.  The 2009 total represents the smallest annual preliminary total since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program was first conducted in 1992. 

Based on this preliminary count, the rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2009 was 3.3 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down from a final rate of 3.7 in 2008.  Counts and rates are likely to increase with the release of final 2009 CFOI results in April 2011.  Over the last 2 years, increases in the published counts based on information received after the publication of preliminary results have averaged 156 fatalities per year or about 3 percent of the revised totals.    


In 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that fatal work injuries involving falls decreased 20 percent in 2008 after a sharp increase in 2007. The 847 fatal falls in 2007 was the series high. Fatal falls to a lower level, which accounted for 85 percent of all falls, were down 23 percent in 2008. Fatal falls from roofs were down 26 percent and falls from ladders decreased by 14 percent. The number of fatal falls on same level (to a floor or walkway or against an object) increased slightly in 2008. Identifying fall hazards and deciding how best to protect workers is the first step in reducing or eliminating fall hazards.

Occupational fatalities caused by falls remain a serious public health problem. The US Department of Labor (DOL) lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for eight percent of all occupational fatalities from trauma. Any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected. Fall protection must be provided at four feet in general industry, five feet in maritime and six feet in construction. However, regardless of the fall distance, fall protection must be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery.


While workers in construction incurred the most fatal injuries of any industry in the private sector in 2009, the number of fatalities in construction declined 16 percent in 2009 after a decline of 19 percent in 2008. 

With this decrease, private construction fatalities are down by more than a third since reaching a series high in 2006.  Economic conditions may explain much of this decline with total hours worked having declined 17 percent in construction in 2009, after a decline of 10 percent the year before.  Fatal injuries involving workers in the construction of buildings were down 27 percent from 2008, with most of the decrease occurring in nonresidential building construction (down 44 percent to 55 cases).  Heavy and civil engineering construction was down 12 percent, and the subsector with the largest number of fatal work injuries, specialty trade contractors, had 16 percent fewer fatalities in 2009 than in 2008.

Examination Question #7: Can the widow receive workers' compensation benefits and also file a third-party lawsuit against the GC?

Examination Question #8: Are there too many lawyers or too many unnecessary deaths and injuries?

Examination Question #9: Why do the rich and powerful argue we have too many lawyers while hiring the best legal help available?

Examination Question #10: If justice isn't about fairness, the what, is it about?

Examination Question #11: If there are too many lawsuits why are corporations filing them in record numbers?

Examination Question #12: Where did all that retirement money go after the market crashed? Does money just disappear electronically?

Bonus Examination Question #13: And what about fairness, if we haven't got even a single dollar to deposit into the Social Security fund, why do we have $3 Billion to spend every month on bombs and bullets?

Too many lawyers or too many lies? You be the judge.

Accident details:

  • Place of accident: University of Iowa Boyd Law School Building
  • Time of Incident: 10:48 a.m., Monday
  • Date: august 30, 2010
  • Job Site: UI had awarded a $1.5 million contract to Miron for exterior repairs at the Boyd building
  • Injured Worker: Tom Fosdick, 49-year-old man from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
  • Investigating Body: Iowa OSHA, by Jens Nissen
  • Employer: Swanson Glass, subcontractor
  • GC: Miron Construction, Neenah, Wisconsin
  • Job duties at time of accident: an exterior window installation.
  • Interesting facts: Mr. Fosdick was an All-American diver at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, then joined the Hawkeye Swimming and Diving Team in 1979.


Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
Don: Tough time for the family I'm assuming. A lot of questions to be answered. Let's hope IOSH does a damn good job of investigating. My stepdaughter is in law school and was there that day. Rough day to say the least. My best to you. Steve Lombardi
by Steve Lombardi October 14, 2010 at 09:53 PM
Steve, I was a close friend of Tom Fosdick, the worker who died from the fall at the UI law building. Excellent questions. I'm asking them myself. Looking forward to seeing what OSHA finds out. Thanks for raising these concerns.
by Don Muret October 14, 2010 at 05:23 PM
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