Region 1 News Release: BOS 99-210
Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074
OSHA PROPOSES NEARLY $70,000 IN FINES AGAINST MASSACHUSETTS CONTRACTOR FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL, REPEAT AND SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT NEW BEDFORD SCHOOL
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Davis Sheet Metal, Inc., a New Bedford, Massachusetts, contractor performing roofing work at the William H. Taylor School in New Bedford, for alleged Willful, Repeat and Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and has proposed penalties totaling $69,400.
According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for southeastern Massachusetts, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection conducted October 7, 1999, at the Brock Road worksite and encompass a cross-section of construction safety hazards, in particular a lack of fall protection for employees working more than three stories above the ground. Davis Sheet Metal, Inc., based at 51 Chancery Street in New Bedford, had ten employees working onsite at the time of the inspection.
"The inspection found employees working on the roof without any form of fall protection to prevent them from falling 35 feet to the parking lot below," she said. "Protection should have been supplied through the use of lifelines and safety belts and by erecting guardrails in hoisting areas at roof's edge where employees received materials lifted onto the roof by a crane.
"The crane and its rigging had not been inspected for defects such as the damaged nylon sling that was used to lift materials to the roof. This exposed employees to the hazard of the load failing and dropping on them," she said. "Employees were also at risk of electric shock from ungrounded power tools, head injuries from failure to wear hard hats, and falls from inadequate or improperly used ladders. In addition, the workers had not been trained to recognize and address hazards such as these."
Gordon explained that the considerable size of the fines proposed in this case reflect the classification of the fall protection citations as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation, issued only when OSHA believes based on the information gathered in its inspection that the employer knew what safeguards were required to protect workers yet apparently elected to not provide them.
Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass:
- Two alleged Willful violations, accounting for $56,000 of the proposed penalties, for:
- employees exposed to serious fall hazards in excess of 35 feet while performing roofing work where a fall protection system was not in use;
- employees exposed to serious fall hazards in excess of 35 feet while working within 3 feet of roof's edge during hoisting operations where standard guardrails were not provided and a personal fall arrest system was neither provided nor used.
- Five alleged Repeat violations, with $8,400 in proposed penalties, for:
- roofing workers were not trained to recognize the unsafe working conditions applicable to their work environment;
- employees were exposed to possible serious head injury while not wearing protective helmets;
- defective nylon slings used to hoist materials from ground to roof were not removed from service;
- the hydraulic crane was not inspected by a competent person (one with both the knowledge and authority to identify and correct hazards) before each use;
- annual inspection of the hydraulic crane had not conducted.
[The employer had previously cited by OSHA for substantially similar violations in citations issued April 15, 1998, following an inspection at a Westport, Mass., worksite].
- Five alleged Serious violations, with $5,000 in penalties proposed, for:
- a written hazard communication program was not implemented for all hazardous materials such as asphalt and fiberboard, in use on the worksite;
- employees exposed to possible serious electric shock hazards while using ungrounded power tools;
- missing ground pin on an extension cord used to power electric equipment;
- employees exposed to serious injury while using a portable access ladder that did not extend three feet above the top of the access hatch;
- an 8-foot portable access ladder was not used according to manufacturer's recommendation.
"This employer is no stranger to these worker safety requirements given its prior OSHA history and the fact that fall protection is a basic, well-known and mandated safeguard for employees performing roofing work," said Gordon. "The fact that no falls occurred on this jobsite is fortunate but that in no way absolves an employer of the responsibility of providing a safe workplace."
Gordon emphasized the importance of fall protection for workers by noting that falls are the leading cause of death in construction and that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 28 workers in New England fell to their deaths while on the job in 1998. In an effort to help reduce that number, OSHA earlier this year launched a region-wide education and enforcement program intended to reduce such accidents by increasing employer and worker awareness about potentially fatal fall hazards in their workplaces and the means by which they can prevent and eliminate them.
She also encouraged southeastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Braintree and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. A repeated violation is defined by OSHA as one where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found.
OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed. The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.