Company exposed workers to falls at two work sites

According to OSHA, a Hartford-area roofing firm deliberately and repeatedly failed to use legally required fall protection for its employees at two work sites in New Britain and exposed workers to potentially fatal falls. The company faces four willful and two serious violations of safety standards and $294,000 in fines.

"These employees were one slip, trip, or step away from deadly or disabling injuries. Their employer knew this, yet chose to do nothing about it," says Warren Simpson, OSHA's area director in Hartford. "Falls are the most dangerous hazard in construction work, responsible for the deaths of three Connecticut workers in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, falls are among the most preventable hazards, but only if employers supply and ensure the use of fall protection. Failing or refusing to do so is gambling with workers' lives."

Responding on March 6, 2014, to a complaint, an OSHA inspector found the roofing contractor's employees exposed to 16-foot falls while ripping shingles from a roof at 551 Corbin Ave in New Britain. On April 19, an OSHA inspector returning from another inspection observed employees exposed to 10-foot falls while ripping shingles from the roof of a house at 39 East St. Additional fall hazards at both sites occurred because ladders did not extend at least 3 feet above landings to ensure proper stability.

For these conditions, OSHA cited the contractor for four willful violations of fall protection standards, with $280,000 in fines. 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.

At the East Street site, workers were exposed to falls while improperly ascending ladders and faced possible electrocution from working without protection close to a working power line. OSHA cited the employer for two serious violations, with $14,000 in fines, for these hazards. 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.

"Gravity doesn't give you a second chance. 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. "This is our message to employers: It is imperative that you plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide your employees with the right equipment, and train them to use it properly. It is your responsibility."

To raise awareness of fall hazards and safeguards among workers, employers, and the public, OSHA has created a Stop Falls web page with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.