A contractor says it doesn’t deserve $185,000 in federal fines after a worker drowned

A Pembroke Park company plans to fight OSHA citations leading to $185,239 in proposed fines, following the death of a worker in April.

And one of the violations, accounting for $116,686 of the proposed fine, is classified as Willful. That means the Department of Labor’s OSHA arm believes Westwind Contracting “knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.”

“One” comes up three other ways with this case. This makes one OSHA citation for Westwind in the last five years. Westwind has one other Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigation in the last 10 years, from a January 2014 incident that resulted in a $35,000 penalty for the one Willful violation, inadequate protection from a cave-in.

And, Winston Herbert had one life, which ended after 53 years on April 24, 2019 while working at 20351 Sheridan St.

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The property’s listed as “vacant industrial” in Broward County property records. Here’s OSHA’s description of the tragedy:

“At 1:15 p.m. on April 24, 2019, an employee was working inside a catch basin while sealing around a newly installed drain pipe. The employee drowned when a plug that was used to seal an opening failed and allowed water to flood the catch basin.”

The Willful violation, according to OSHA, was the exact same one as the January 2014 incident: inadequate protection from a cave-in.

The Citation and Notification of Penalty says, “An employee was exposed to a cave-in hazard while working in an excavation with type-C soil that was approximately 9 feet in depth by 12 feet in width by 15 feet in length and not protected from a potential cave-in.”

Westwind, which has been registered in Florida since 1986, said through a statement by Miami attorney Alex Barthet it would contest the findings.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Winston Herbert and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family. Westwind Contracting’s priority is the safety of its employees. While we respect the role of OSHA, we disagree with its findings in this case. We look forward to the opportunity to address the claims asserted and we are confident we will be vindicated once all of the facts are presented.”

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.