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Fall Hazards Rack Up $355K in Fines

Monday, October 13, 2014

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The recent crackdown on falls in residential construction has gotten expensive for violators, even when no one is injured, as two Florida contractors can newly attest.

The case is not the first for either company, but it will be the last for one: He is going out of business.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Archer Exteriors Inc. and subcontractor GP Roofing & Construction LLC for 12 serious violations at two residential work sites. The violations carry $355,300 in total proposed fines.

The latest case puts GP Roofing in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, but owner Guillermo Perez says his company won't be around for the program's follow-up inspections: He will fold his business within the month.

Photos: Archer Exteriors

Archer Exteriors provides remodeling and new construction services in 23 states nationwide.

Both GP Roofing and Archer Exteriors have accumulated multiple OSHA cases in recent years. In this case, inspectors found employees shingling roofs at three sites without fall protection, using ladders improperly, and operating nail guns without face and eye protection.

'There's No Responsibility on the Job'

Perez admits that his workers allowed the hazards, but he says he no longer knows how to force workers to take personal responsibility.

In an interview Friday (Oct. 10), he did not express bitterness about OSHA. In fact, he says that he and the agency have had "pretty good talks," in which both parties express frustration about the lack of individual compliance with fall protection, even when the equipment is provided.

And Perez says he always provides equipment. He also says his company has never had an accident in 20 years.

"We need to talk together about how we can fix this problem," says Perez. "We need to tell people [workers] to get their s**t together."

The native-born Venezuelan thinks part of the problem may be cultural: Latino workers from other countries are not used to the regulatory atmosphere of the U.S., he says.

Still, he doesn't know the answer when he tells a worker to tie in in the morning, watches as he does so, then sees the same worker working without gear an hour later.

If anything, Perez seems more frustrated at his workers' indifference to safety than he is at OSHA.

"If some knucklehead falls off the roof and gets killed, I go to jail," he said. "And that's not fair."

Their actions will also cost their office colleagues their job, Perez notes

His small office staff is older, and one is ill.

"Where are these people going to find work?"

Severe, Repeat Violators

OSHA initiated the inspections in March as part of its Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction. Falls are the leading source of OSHA citations and the leading cause of death in construction.

GP Roofing, of Palm Coast, FL, was hit with the lion's share of the citations:

  • Three willful violations carrying $210,000 in proposed fines;
  • Four repeat violations carrying $108,900 in penalties; and
  • Three serious violations, carrying $21,000 in fines.

The repeat violation follow citations for the same violations in 2012. In all, OSHA has inspected GP Roofing 13 times since 2011, resulting in willful, repeat and serious citations for fall protection, ladders, safety glasses, first aid kits and hazard communications.

Archer Exteriors, of Pensacola, was cited in this case for one repeat violation, with a penalty of $15,400, for allowing the roofing company to install flashing at 10-foot heights without fall protection. The general contractor was cited for the same violation in 2011.

ArcherExteriors

Tom Archer and his company appeared in a 2008 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

In all, Archer has been inspected six times by OSHA in the past five years and was cited in three of those inspections.

Archer Exteriors specializes in new construction in 23 U.S. states and remodeling in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.OSHA standards for residential construction require fall protection at six feet or more above lower levels.

Archer Exteriors could not be reached late Friday for comment.

No Fall Protection

The willful citations, OSHA's highest level of infraction, stem from the lack of fall protection at all three sites, OSHA said. In addition, workers were using powered ail guns without protective gear.

Ladders at two locations were not extended three feet above the landing surface as required, and some ladders were surrounded by debris, OSHA said. In some cases, workers were facing away from the ladder as they climbed down, according to OSHA.

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction, and falls from ladders make up nearly one-third of those deaths

'Knowingly' Risking Lives

Archer "knowingly continues to put workers' lives at risk of serious injury or death by not ensuring proper safety measures are implemented to protect employees from dangerous falls at all work sites," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville.

"Although safety harnesses and ropes were available at one of the work sites, "management decided not to use the fall protection because they didn't have tie-down brackets," Stutecky said.

   

Tagged categories: Fall protection; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Personal protective equipment; Residential Construction; Roofing contractors

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