Region 1 News Release: BOS 99-209
Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Contact: John M. Chavez
PHONE: (617) 565-2075
TEWKSBURY, MASS., EMPLOYER CITED BY OSHA FOR ALLEGED WILLFUL & SERIOUS SCAFFOLDING SAFETY VIOLATIONS AT WINTHROP, MASS., WORKSITE;
OVER $150,000 IN PENALTIES PROPOSED
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor has cited New England Brickmaster Windows and Exteriors, Inc., of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, for alleged WILLFUL and SERIOUS scaffolding safety violations at a jobsite in Winthrop, Mass., and has proposed penalties totaling $150,800 for those alleged violations. The company and its predecessors have a long history of similar safety violations.
According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts, the alleged violations were discovered during an inspection of a jobsite located at 178 Herman Street, Winthrop, Mass., on May 14, 1999. "Typically, for this company, what our compliance officers found," said Gordon, "was a litany of scaffolding safety hazards to which employees of this company seem to be regularly exposed. Unfortunately, this firm and its predecessor company have a long history of similar safety violations, all having to do with unsafe scaffolds."
Gordon noted that New England Brickmaster Windows and Exteriors, Inc., has been inspected four times previously by OSHA. In addition, the company is the offspring of a now defunct company with significant OSHA inspection history. New England Brickmaster, Inc., also of Tewksbury, was inspected by OSHA 4 times, with 6 serious and 2 repeat violations of the scaffold standards.
That company was dissolved in March of 1992 and its assets were sold in an involuntary auction. New England Brickmaster Windows and Exteriors, Inc., immediately re-opened with the employees and management from New England Brickmaster, Inc.
On May 14 at the Winthrop site, employees of the company were observed working at elevations of 13 and 20 feet above the ground while supported on a poorly constructed wood scaffold system. They were observed working without fall protection, and without safe access on a scaffold that appeared structurally unsound and in danger of collapse.
Consequently, noted Gordon, the company is being charged will the following alleged scaffolding safety violations:
- Four alleged WILLFUL violations, carrying total proposed penalties of $140,000, for: failing to ensure that a wooden scaffold system was erected in accordance with the design of a qualified person; failing to provide a safe means of access to each of the three working levels of a 20 foot high wood scaffold system; allowing employees to work at elevations up to 20 feet on scaffolding with damaged or weakened parts (scaffold planks and brackets were not able to support their own weight and four times the maximum intended load); and, failing to ensure that a guardrail system was installed along all open sides and ends of platforms on a wooden scaffold system.
- Six alleged SERIOUS violations, including proposed penalties totaling $8,600, for: employees potentially exposed to dropped tools or materials not protected by protective head gear; employees exposed to falling nails not protected with protective eye wear; the 2"x6" boards used as scaffold planks were placed so their ends extended up to four feet beyond the end supports; a competent person did not inspect the scaffold as required; toeboards and screens were not provided to protect workers from falling materials; and, employees were exposed to falls while standing unprotected on a second floor balcony railing.
Gordon noted that a health inspection was also conducted, which resulted in:
- Two alleged SERIOUS violations, carrying proposed penalties totaling $2,200, for: failing to develop a written respirator program for employees required to mix silica containing products and failing to assess employee exposure to respirable quartz and particulates; failing to develop and implement a written hazard communication program and failing to conduct hazard communication training.
Gordon indicated that within the past year OSHA had launched a special emphasis program aimed at reducing fatal fall hazards in New England through a combination of targeted enforcement and education activity designed to help employers and workers identify and eliminate fall hazards both in construction, where falls are the leading cause of death, and in general industry, where fall hazards may not be as obvious. The program's four major components combine outreach efforts, compliance assistance, an increased emphasis on identifying and addressing fall hazards during general industry inspections and targeted inspections of workplaces where fall hazards are observed.
She urged Bay State employers and employees with questions regarding fall protection or any other OSHA workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Braintree (617-565-6924), Methuen (617-565-8110) or Springfield (413-785-0123) for information and assistance.
Separately, she reminded employers and workers 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 substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.
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, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or 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.