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OSHA Cites Controversial Contractor

Monday, June 10, 2013

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A New York contractor who has initiated several high-profile lawsuits over various projects is now on the receiving end of bad news, facing $84,000 in federal fines over severe safety violations at a worksite.

Accadia Site Contracting Inc. was cited for willful and serious excavation safety violations after a surprise inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The city's former engineer had previously made claims about hazards at the site.

The violations were found March 7 at a water main site in Niagara Falls, NY.

Trench Dangers

During the inspection, OSHA found workers in a seven-foot-deep vertical-walled excavation that lacked protection to prevent cave-ins and lacked a ladder every 25 feet as required to allow for quick and safe exits.

In addition, eight inches of water had accumulated in the bottom of the trench, increasing the likelihood of collapse, OSHA said in a statement  May 23.

Accadia Site Contracting
Niagara Falls Reporter

Accadia Site Contracting has been fined $84,000 for alleged excavation violations on a project in Niagara Falls, NY. The city's former engineer previously made claims about dangers at the job site.

"An unprotected excavation can turn into a grave in seconds, crushing and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have an opportunity to react or escape," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director in Buffalo.

"These workers were fortunate—not lucky, because workplace safety must never be dependent on luck—that they were not injured or killed."

The company declined to comment on Friday (June 7).

Three Citations

OSHA issued one willful citation for the unprotected excavation with a proposed penalty of $70,000. Two serious citations were issued for water and ladder hazards, with a total of $14,000 in proposed penalties.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's safety requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard the employer knew or should have known about.

Accadia Site Contracting has 15 days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with the area director, or contest the findings before the independent review commission.

Warm Weather Hazards

"The coming of warmer weather and the accompanying thaw of the soil bring with them an increase in excavation work," said Dube. Unfortunately, it also brings an increase in cave-in hazards and unsafe work practices."

"Before any employee enters an excavation to perform work, the employer must ensure that the excavation is properly safeguarded against collapse, the employees are trained to recognize and avoid cave-in hazards, and all required equipment is present and properly maintained."

OSHA is asking employers across western New York to take action to ensure that excavations are guarded against collapse and employees are protected.

The Firing and the Frog

OSHA's findings came after the city's former engineer, Jeffrey Skurka, made claims that the contractor was not following proper safety rules on the jobsite.

OSHA safety violations

Former city engineer Jeffrey Skurka expressed concern about ditches. Accadia Site Contracting is now suing him for over $10 million for alleged false statements.

According to the Niagara Gazette, Skurka expressed concern about ditches and had several confrontations with Accadia Site Contracting and another contractor on a city project.

Skurka told the newspaper that he felt he was terminated because of the safety expectations he had. Mayor Paul Dyster said Skurka had not been terminated because he raised concerns, but Dyster had told Skurka to stop visiting the jobsite because it wasn't his role as city engineer to conduct site visits.

On May 24, lawyers representing Accadia Site Contracting filed a lawsuit accusing Skurka of providing false information to the media to damage the company's reputation, the Niagara Falls Reporter said. The suit seeks more than $10 million in damages, costs and attorney's fees.

In addition, Paul Marinaccio, owner of Accadia Site Contracting, was recently awarded more than $1.6 million after a local developer flooded his 37-acre spread. The flood attracted an infestation of frogs that overran the property.

Marinaccio says he has had a lifelong fear of frogs. The phobia began in his childhood in Italy, when a property owner waving a bullfrog chased Marinaccio off of his land.


Tagged categories: Contractors; Health and safety; OSHA; Roads/Highways

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