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Contractor Arraigned in Worker’s Death

Friday, May 9, 2014

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A Michigan builder cited repeatedly by federal safety authorities has pleaded not guilty to a felony criminal charge in the 2012 death of his foreman.

Joe Novak, 40, president and owner of Black River Builders LLC of Sparta, MI, is charged with one count of a Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) Violation Causing Death in the death of Brian Tarachanowicz.

The state Attorney General's Office announced the indictment last week.

Brian Tarachanowicz
Provided via

Brian Tarachanowicz, 38, died almost instantly in July 2012 after a 26-foot fall.

Novak appeared in court Wednesday (May 7) and pleaded not guilty to the charge, WZZM-TV reported. He remains free on bond and has been ordered not to have any contact with the victim's family.

His preliminary hearing was set for June 30. He faces up to one year in prison if convicted.

A call to Black River Builders was not answered this week, and the company did not respond to a request for comment.

26-Foot Fall

Tarachanowicz, 38, a married father of two young children, was killed July 2, 2012, after falling more than 26 feet while removing an old roof deck at Federal-Mogul Corp. in Sparta.

Tarachanowicz fell through a weak spot in the roof and was not wearing safety equipment, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tarachanowicz's obituary said he had been a construction foreman at Novak's company for six and a half years.

MIOSHA Investigation

An investigation by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the victim and others had not been using fall protection equipment, even though a section of the old deck had been removed and they were working more than 26 feet up.

Joe Novak
Kent County Sheriff's Dept.

Joe Novak's construction company had been cited by MIOSHA for dozens of safety violations in the last decade.

Investigators also said Black River Builders had conducted no engineering survey or daily inspection of safety conditions during the progress of the demolition work. Nor did the company inspect the wooden deck working surface for the project, MIOSHA said.

Long Record

MIOSHA has inspected Black River Builders 18 times in the last decade and issued citations on 15 of those occasions, federal OSHA records show. Citations were issued once in 2014, four times in 2013, three times in 2012, twice in 2010, twice in 2009, once in 2008, and twice in 2006.

More than 40 violations, including fall-protection violations, were cited in all, according to OSHA.

National Safety Stand-Down

OSHA is planning a National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction in June to raise awareness of the industry's leading cause of death.

The company was cited for three serious and one willful violation in the fatal 2012 accident and fined $36,400. Records showed that case as still open on Tuesday.

"In a competitive and time-driven industry, it is not acceptable to cut corners at the expense of worker safety," said Martha Yoder, director of MIOSHA.

Taking Action Against Falls

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction-related work, accounting for more than one-third of the construction fatalities reported in 2012. Fall prevention safety standards are perennially ranked high on the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations.

To draw attention to this toll, OSHA has scheduled a National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction during the week of June 2-6. Details and resources are available here.


Tagged categories: Construction; Contractors; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health and safety; Laws and litigation

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