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Fallen Worker: Howard Harless, Tennessee

Howard Harless worked as a crew leader for Ron’s Millwright Service. On the morning of Feb. 8, 2012, Howard and his crew were repairing the metal roof of the Five Rivers Industrial Complex in Greeneville, Tenn.

As the crew was getting into position to move a 40-foot roofing panel, Howard stepped on an unsecured end of a panel, which gave way under his weight. He fell 23 feet to his death. Howard was 70 years old.

TOSHA investigators found six serious safety violations at the worksite, including failure to use safety belts and lanyards to prevent falls, and not providing covers to roof holes and openings adequate to support the weight of workers, equipment and materials. Ron’s Millwright Service was fined a total of $14,800 for the violations.

Born in Rogersville, Tenn., Howard learned the millwright trade as a young man and practiced it throughout his adult life. For many years, he owned his own millwright business, but he sold his business in 2004 to retire and care for his daughter, Pamela, who was ill with cancer. When Pamela died, Howard resumed working at the trade he loved.

“He was a caring and compassionate individual who would do anything for others,” said a co-worker at the scene of the accident. “We are completely devastated.”

Howard was a family man. He and his wife, Peggy, raised two daughters and a son. He was active in his church, Highpoint Baptist Church in Meadowview, Va., where he regularly taught Sunday School. Howard served in the U. S. Army in Germany after graduating from high school.

Always active, Howard loved to work with his hands. He could build anything. Peggy has several dogs. She said she asked Howard to build them a house. Much to her surprise, he built them a real house, with miniature living room, bedroom, and air conditioning.

Howard was a devoted gardener. He and Peggy grew and canned much of the food that got them through the year.

He loved to hunt and fish. He owned a farm in the Rogersville area, which he used as a camp for hunting in the fall and fishing in Cherokee Lake throughout the year.

Read other stories of fallen workers.  Learn more about Workers’ Memorial Week of Action.