OSHA fines 4 contractors more than $460,000
Workers exposed to falls, other safety hazards
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited four New Jersey contractors working on a 20-story building in Jersey City for exposing workers to fall hazards following a December 2011 inspection during which inspectors observed employees working on the fourth floor without personal fall protection or fall protection systems. Altura Concrete Inc. and Nathil Corp., both of Hasbrouck Heights, and White Diamonds Properties LLC and Blade Contracting Inc., both of Jersey City, face total proposed fines of $463,350.
"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."
Altura Concrete, Inc. and Nathil Corp., the concrete contractors for the foundation and superstructure of the building, directed 75 employees on-site. The two companies have been 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 $315,000 in penalties.
The companies also have received citations for nine serious violations, including failing to provide personal protective equipment, provide a cap for an acetylene tank in storage, store cylinders in an upright position, separate oxygen and acetylene tanks, provide fall protection for workers installing ribs, provide protection from protruding rebar, maintain shoring/reshoring plans on-site, provide railings on stairs, protect workers from fall hazards created by open holes, secure the cover over a floor hole and mark the floor hole cover. The citations carry $40,500 in penalties. 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 has been cited 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.
General contractor White Diamonds Properties, with seven employees on-site, has been issued citations for two willful violations involving failing to protect workers from fall hazards, as well as citations 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.
Masonry contractor Blade Contracting, with 21 employees on-site, has been cited with three serious violations for failing to protect workers from fall hazards, properly use a scaffold and inspect scaffold components for defects. The citations carry $11,550 in penalties.
"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."
In April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a new campaign to provide employers and workers with lifesaving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs in an effort to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry. 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'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 on fall protection standards is available in English and Spanish at www.osha.gov/stopfalls.
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.
About the Authors
Leni Fortson is a Regional Director at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Joanna Hawkins is a Deputy Regional Director at the U.S. Department of Labor.