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‘Gravity Doesn’t Give You a 2nd Chance’

Monday, September 15, 2014

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Leaving workers "one slip, trip or step away from deadly or disabling injuries," a Connecticut contractor is facing nearly $300,000 in fines for federal fall, electrocution and other hazards, authorities have announced.

"Gravity doesn't give you a second chance," an Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration official said in announcing four willful and two serious violations against Gleason Roofing Co. of  Enfield, CT.

"If you fall and there is no effective fall protection in place, the result could end your career or your life," said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA's acting deputy regional administrator for New England.

Fall Protection

OSHA offers a Guidance Document on Fall Protection in Residential Construction.

In inspections March 7 and April 18 at two Connecticut residential job sites, the company "deliberately and repeatedly failed to use legally required fall protection," OSHA said.

Proposed fines for the violations total $294,000. The company could not be reached late Friday (Sept. 12) for comment.

16-Foot Falls

Responding in the first case to a complaint, an OSHA inspector found Gleason employees exposed to 16-foot falls while ripping shingles from a roof at a home in New Britain, CT. On April 19, an OSHA inspector returning from another inspection observed Gleason employees exposed to 10-foot falls while ripping shingles from the roof of another house.

Inspectors also noted that ladders at both sites did not extend at least three feet above landings as required to ensure stability.

Fall Protection

Fall-protection hazards are among the most commonly cited OSHA violations. The current case involves six citations and fines totaling $294,000.

For these conditions, OSHA cited Gleason for four willful violations of fall-protection standards, with $280,000 in fines. A willful violation is OSHA's highest level of infraction, reserved for violations "committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health."

In addition, workers at one of the sites were seen improperly climbing ladders and working unprotected close to live power lines. OSHA cited Gleason for two serious violations, with $14,000 in fines, for these hazards.

Serious violations reflect substantial probability of death or serious injury from a hazard that an employer should have known about.

'Did Nothing'

"These employees were one slip, trip or step away from deadly or disabling injuries," said Warren Simpson, OSHA's area director in Hartford. "Their employer knew this, yet chose to do nothing about it."

Falls are the most dangerous hazard in construction work; they are the leading cause of death in construction and a chief source of OSHA citations.

Falls are also the most preventable hazards, said Simpson, "but only if employers supply and ensure the use of fall protection. Failing or refusing to do so is gambling with workers' lives."

OSHA has launched numerous initiatives in recent years to bring attention to fall hazards, including its Stop Falls web page, which features detailed information in English and Spanish.


Tagged categories: Enforcement; Fall protection; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Residential Construction; Roofing contractors

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