Twin Pines Construction, Inc., an Everett, Massachusetts based wood framing contractor, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for alleged willful, repeat, and serious violations of workplace safety standards regarding fall hazards at its Durham, New Hampshire work site.
Workers at the site were exposed to falls risks of 9 feet up to 30 feet due to inadequate or missing fall protection safeguards. Fall hazards related to front ladder misuse and inadequate personal fall arrest systems that could allow workers to fall more than 6 feet and strike lower levels in violation of OSHA standards were also found. The standards require that employees working 6 or more feet above a lower level be protected against falls by guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems. As a result of these violations, Twin Pines Construction Inc. was issued three willful citations with fines of $200,500. Willful violations are ones committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA New Hampshire area director said, “The sizable penalties proposed here reflect the gravity and recurring nature of these hazards, plus this employer’s knowledge of and refusal to correct them. This is unacceptable. Falls remain the number one killer in construction work, having cost the lives of 264 workers in 2010. Employers who fail to supply and ensure the use of proper and effective fall protection safeguards are gambling with the lives and well-being of their employees.”
The company was also issued four repeat citations for hazards similar to ones cited in 2008 and 2011 at other worksites in Boston, Lakeville, Lexington, Newbury, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, and in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The fines for these citations total $75,900. The citations were for hazards including lack of fall protection training, missing handrails, lack of eye protection for workers using pneumatic nail guns, and ungrounded electrical cords.
Additionally, citations were issued for three serious violations for wood and metal trusses which were inadequately braced during installation, lack of protection from falling objects, and missing fire extinguishers. Proposed fines for these violations are $14,300.
Because falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, OSHA has created a Fall Prevention Campaign to raise awareness of fall hazards and how to prevent them. The web page for the campaign can be found at www.osha.gov/stopfalls. The page provides detailed information on fall protection standards in both English and Spanish. There are also printable fact sheets, posters, and videos which illustrate fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.
OSHA area director Ohar said, “All employers must plan ahead to identify fall hazards and use the proper type of fall protection, provide proper and properly maintained equipment, and train workers to protect themselves against fall hazards.”
Walter Cardin, 55, of Metairie, Tennessee, was sentenced on April 12 in U.S. District Court for lying about worker injuries while working as safety manager for the Shaw Group. Cardin was sentenced to six and half years in prison followed by two years of supervised release. In November Cardin was convicted of eight counts of major fraud against the United States. The charges involved not reporting or misclassifying worker injuries at three plants owned by his employer, Stone and Webster Construction, a subsidiary of the Shaw Group. The falsified injury records enabled his company to collect $2.5 million in safety bonuses from the Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. government agency which oversees nuclear facilities. Cardin could have received a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $1,000,000 for each offense.
Cardin’s employer, Stone and Webster Construction had been contracted by the TVA to provide repair and maintenance services at three nuclear sites as well as construction work for a restart at one of the facilities. Cardin falsified safety records at the Sequoyah and Watts Bar plants in Tennessee and Brown’s Ferry in Alabama between 2004 and 2006. The TVA-Office of Inspector General conducted an investigation that led to the charges being filed.
Evidence was presented in the case of more than 80 injuries not properly recorded. Employees testified that medical treatment for their injuries was delayed or denied due to the falsified reports. In early 2009, Stone and Webster Construction, Inc. paid $6.2 million to the federal government in a civil settlement for the alleged improper recording of safety records while under a $10-billion long-term contract with the TVA.
In addition to the charges of falsifying records, Cardin was found to have obstructed justice after denying that he intentionally misclassified the records and saying that he had no knowledge of safety bonuses being tied to the injury reports, after investigators found emails that proved otherwise. This charge was taken into account in deciding Cardin’s sentence.
Prosecutors comments on the case pointed out that Cardin’s actions in his role as safety manager affected safety at nuclear sites, discouraged employees from reporting injuries, resulted in employees having to work with injuries that could create further risks to themselves and others, and kept employers from addressing other safety issues.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said, “These convictions will put all Tennessee Valley Authority contractors on notice that criminal violations to maximize profits with TVA will not be tolerated in the Eastern District of Tennessee.”
On July 26, 2012, Police Officer Jose Torres, 53, who had been assigned to direct traffic at a work site in Westfield, Massachusetts, was killed when a dump truck operated by a Revoli employee backed over him. At the time there were two backup alarms sounding from different vehicles. Torres apparently was unaware that the dump truck was backing toward him. Officer Torres, an Army veteran, was well-liked and had twice received citations for heroism during his career. He is survived by a wife and two sons.
Revoli had been hired by the city of West Springfield to complete a pipe project. Part of the work involved was in the neighboring city of Westfield, where the accident occurred. The company is scheduled to return in the spring to finish the job at the Westfield worksite where the fatal accident occurred. Due to the citation issued by OSHA and a history of safety violations by Revoli, Westfield Mayor Daniel M. Knapnik has made the decision that when work resumes at the site, roads where work is being done will be closed to all traffic for safety reasons. Knapnik, who has 20 years of experience in his career before becoming mayor said, “The number one killer on a job site is a dump truck that is backing up.”
The citation issued by OSHA to Revoli is for a repeat violation of standard 29 CFR 1926.21 (b)(2). The citation states that the “employer did not instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.” The citation requires that the company must “conduct and document daily (or as necessary) briefings with all exposed employees on the job site where those employees are exposed to vehicular and other job site hazards…Specific abatement documentation that this violation has been corrected must be provided [to OSHA] within 10 days of the abatement in accordance with 29 CFR 1903.19(d)(1).”
OSHA Springfield area director Mary E. Hoye also wrote a letter addressed to Shawqi Alsarabi at Revoli with recommendations for improving conditions which, though they were not found to be violations in the OSHA inspection, would be significant to reducing or eliminating safety hazards. The letter stated, “Specifically, OSHA is concerned with your company’s apparent lack of focus on safety and accident prevention…Had a comprehensive safety program been in place and enforced, an accident of this magnitude may have been avoided.”
The OSHA investigation found that the truck involved in the accident was equipped with a backup alarm as required by federal law. However, the truck driver was unable to see what was behind him as he backed up and was relying on anyone in the way to remove themselves from the truck’s path. Hoye’s letter to the company’s representative recommended that Revoli explore the use of backup cameras and microwave-Doppler backup warning systems which would alert drivers of obstructions they are not able to see.
Revoli has a history of safety violations. The company received a citation from OSHA in 2005 for failing to provide cave-in protection for its workers at a work site in Gloucester, Massachusetts and was fined $115,900. The citation noted that in the previous twelve years, Revoli had been cited nine times for not providing cave-in protection for workers. Revoli also received citations from OSHA in 2008 and 2009.
A Milford, Connecticut roofing contractor, Roof Systems of Connecticut has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Proposed fines total $44,880. The citations are a result of a November 2012 inspection where officials spotted fall hazards.
Robert Kowalski, OSHA area director in Bridgeport, Connecticut explained inspection officials consistently visit job sites with inadequate or absent fall protection. It is critical workers have access to fall protection and training relevant to fall hazards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) initiated an aggressive awareness campaign focusing on fall hazards. Information, fact sheets, videos, and posters can be accessed from this link, http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/index.html. OSHA loops falls into a category termed construction’s focus four. Falls, along with electrocutions, struck-by object, and caught-in or-between are the most common causes of death in the construction industry. Falls contributed to 35% of worker fatalities according to the latest statistics released by OSHA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stresses employers are obligated to provide a safe workplace for workers. The agency requires employers to provide fall protection at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in long shoring operations. In addition, employers must provide the following accommodations for all workers in an effort to prevent falls.
• Safeguard every floor hole that a worker can accidentally walk.
• Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open
sided platform, floor or runway.
• Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat or acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
• Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety and harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.
Other OSHA standards and regulations regarding fall protection can be accessed at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection/index.html.
Despite OSHA’s increased emphasis on fall prevention and fall protection, Roof Systems of Connecticut was cited with three repeat violations. It is not the first time the company violated industry regulations regarding fall protection. The company was also cited in 2008 and 2009. At the November 2012 inspection, OSHA officials found workers exposed to falls of up to 11 feet 2 inches while installing roofing without fall protection. Workers were not trained to identify fall hazards and officials also noticed workers using a pneumatic gun without eye protection.
The three serious violations involved ladder hazards and neglecting to familiarize workers on ladder hazards. OSHA suggests the following basic tips to workers when working with ladders.
Ladder Safety Tips
• Select the appropriate ladder for the job.
• Maintain three points of contact.
• Secure the ladder.
• Stand in front of the ladder at ALL times.
Roof Systems of Connecticut has fifteen days from receipt of the citation to dispute OSHA’s claims.