The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed fines totaling $463,350 for four New Jersey contractors, including three concrete/masonry contractors, for “egregious and willful” exposure of workers to fall hazards.
OSHA cited Altura Concrete Inc. and Nathil Corp., both of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., and White Diamonds Properties LLC and Blade Contracting Inc., both of Jersey City, N.J., for safety violations related to fall hazards at a 20-story building in Jersey City.
OSHA said an inspection of the unionized Cast Iron Lofts project in December 2011 revealed employees working on the fourth floor without personal fall protection or fall-protection systems.
The Alleged Violations
Altura Concrete and Nathil Corp., the concrete contractors for the foundation and superstructure of the building, directed 75 employees onsite, OSHA reported.
The two companies were cited for five “willful” violations—including four “instance-by-instance” (that is, egregious) violations—for failing to protect workers from fall hazards created by open sides and edges on the fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th, and 13th floors, as well as protect workers from fall hazards created by the misuse of self-supporting stepladders.
A “willful” violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. The citations carry a $315,000 penalty.
The companies also received citations for nine “serious” violations, which carry $40,500 in penalties, concerning the lack of personal protective equipment, storing cylinders in an upright position, separating oxygen and acetylene tanks, providing protection from rebar, open holes, railings on stairs, and shoring/reshoring plans on site.
A “serious” violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
One “other-than-serious” violation was issued for failing to record an injury on the OSHA 300 log. The citation carries a $900 penalty. An “other-than-serious” violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
The citations for Altura Concrete and Nathil Corp. can be viewed here.
General contractor White Diamonds Properties, with seven employees on site, received citations for two “willful” violations involving failing to protect workers from fall hazards.
In addition, OSHA cited the company for five “serious” violations related to improper storage of compressed gas cylinders, unprotected rebar and failing to have drawings for shoring/reshoring on site. The citations carry $95,400 in penalties.
OSHA’s citations alleged against White Diamonds Properties can be viewed here.
Masonry contractor Blade Contracting, with 21 employees on site, received citations for three “serious” violations, which carry a $11,550 penalty, for failing to protect workers from fall hazards, properly use a scaffold, and inspect scaffold components for defects.
The citations for Blade Contracting can be viewed here.
“A project of this magnitude clearly needs an aggressive injury and illness prevention plan in place to prevent falls and other hazards,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “When management and workers together proactively identify and eliminate hazardous conditions, workers are better protected.”
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
D+D attempts to contact the mentioned companies were unsuccessful.
New Jersey ‘Call to Action’; Fall-Prevention Campaign
In May, OSHA issued a “call to action” to New Jersey construction companies to prevent worker falls following a string of four construction incidents; see OSHA’s Call to Action.
And in April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a new campaign to provide employers and workers with life-saving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs in an effort to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry; see D+D News story, Focus on Fall Protection: OSHA Campaign Targets Hazards in Construction.
In 2010, more than 10,000 construction workers were injured as a result of falling while working from heights, and more than 250 workers were killed, OSHA said.
“Year after year, falls remain the leading cause of death in the construction industry, accounting for almost one in every three construction worker deaths,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
“We know how to prevent falls, and employers have a clear responsibility to provide the right equipment and procedures. When working at heights, everyone needs to plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide the right equipment and train workers to use the equipment safely. OSHA’s message is simple: Safety pays and falls cost.”
OSHA’s fall-prevention campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program.
More information (available in English and Spanish): http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls.