The fourth quarter of 2019 provided little in the way of surprises when it came to OSHA fines. There were no massive penalties, at least when compared to previous quarters, but the usual suspects — fall and excavation hazards — made appearances once again.
Falls lead the agency's Fatal Four list, which, along with struck-by, caught-in/between and electrocution accidents, accounted for almost 60% of construction deaths in 2018.
The agency also views trenching and excavation work as dangerous and launched a National Emphasis Program in 2018 geared toward reducing the related hazards.
This year, OSHA's maximum fines went up again, effective Jan. 15, to account for inflation:
- $13, 494 (up from $13,260) for serious, other-than-serious and posting violations.
- $13,494 (per day beyond the abatement date, up from $13,260) for failure to abate violations.
- $134,937 (up from $132,598) for willful or repeat violations.
As part of the 2016 federal budget bill, OSHA was required to bring its penalty structure in line with the Consumer Price Index, the first time the agency increased its monetary fines since 1990. Fines rose by 78% in 2016 and have seen annual increases since then.
Here are the top violations from Q4 2019:
Allways Roofing — Snohomish, Washington
Total Proposed Fines: $374,400
In November, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), which operates a federal OSHA-approved state plan, cited Allways Roofing for alleged violations on two projects in Washington state, one in Woodinville ($191,700) and another in Arlington ($182,700). The fines are spread across 18 citations — six serious, six willful, two repeat and four classified as "other."
Most of the violations that L&I cited Allways for revolved around fall protection, which is a common focus for roofing contractors since the vast majority of work exposes employees to dangerous falls. Allways' violations included failure to provide fall arrest systems to those exposed to a fall of 4 feet or higher, to safely use ladders at upper levels, to provide adequate fall protection on steep pitched or low pitched roofs and to conduct a walk-around safety inspection at least once a week.
Allways, according to L&I, has been cited previously for fall-related and other safety violations — seven times since 2012 — and has been placed into the Washington's Severe Violator program, according to an L&I news release. The department launched its most recent investigation into Allways after neighbors called and reported the alleged unsafe working conditions.
Mike Krueger (roofer) — Martin, Ohio
Total Proposed Fines: $247,544
Mike Krueger is another roofing contractor that has been cited several times for the same fall protection violations during the last several years — five times since 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
As a result of planned inspections last May, OSHA found that employees at two of Kruger's Ohio work sites — one in Toledo ($116,688) and the other in Perrysburg ($130,856) — were working without proper guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems; had not trained employees about potential fall hazards; had not developed an accident prevention program; were using ladders in an unsafe manner; and did not require eye protection for those employees operating pneumatic nail guns.
Apparently, Krueger did not contest the citations, and the fines are now in collection.
Martin Davila (dba Davila Construction) — St. Louis, Missouri
Total Proposed Fines: $205,098
OSHA inspected three Martin Davila jobsites in Missouri in May, June and August of last year — Wentzville ($91,893), Grover ($63,819) and St. Louis ($49,386) — and found that the residential roofing contractor had violated several OSHA standards including those that require employers to provide adequate fall protection for employees; to train workers about what fall safety hazards they might encounter, proper fall protection procedures, and the safe use of ladders; to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers using pneumatic nail guns; and to develop and maintain a safety program. OSHA also found that Davila allowed internal combustion engines to operate near a five-gallon gas can.
The administration, in a press release, stressed that it offers compliance assistance for the standards Davila violated.
Westwind Contracting Inc. — Pembroke Park, Florida
Total Proposed Fines: $185,239
Status: Violations Under Contest
An employee of Westwind Contracting, according to the accident investigation summary on OSHA's inspection report, drowned while working inside a catch basin at a project site in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in April 2019. Inspectors said that the employee was working around a newly installed drain pipe when a plug that was used to seal an opening failed, permitting water to flood the catch basin.
OSHA, which had cited Westwind back in 2014 for excavation safety violations, said that in addition to exposing workers to engulfment hazards as they tried to rescue the drowning employee, Westwind also put its employees at risk by failing to protect them while they were working in an excavation; to train them on how to recognize potential catch-basin and other confined spaces; and to develop and implement a permit-required confined space program.
Graham Construction Co. — Escatawpa, Mississippi
Total Proposed Fines: $161,771
Status: Violations Under Contest
OSHA cited utility contractor Graham Construction Co. for five violations — three serious, one willful and one repeat — in relation to its excavation work on a project in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. There were no injuries, but OSHA inspectors allege that Graham failed to adequately protect employees from vehicular traffic; did not have a competent person conduct regular inspections of the excavation; did not remove workers from the excavation in question until it was made safe for them; did not protect workers by having adequate cave-in protection measures in place; and did not provide a safe means of egress from the excavation.
Graham, which OSHA cited for similar violations in 2017, has contested the citations and the $161,771 fine.
Apex Roofing and Restoration LLC — Pelham, Alabama and WW Restoration LLC — Randolph, Alabama
Total Proposed Fines: $159,118
Status: Pending Abatement of Violations
OSHA said it chose to cite Apex Roofing and Restoration LLC and WW Restoration LLC as a single employer because the two companies were sharing supervision and operations responsibilities when a 15-year-old roofer fell to his death on a project in Cullman, Alabama.
OSHA cited the two employers for two willful violations for exposing employees to potential fall hazards while they performed roofing activities without providing sufficient fall protection and for not providing proper training. According to local media reports, the teen fell 40 feet through an unsupported section of roof on the industrial project.
In addition, Apex and WW reportedly face an additional investigation into the young worker's role on the project as workers must be 18 to perform roofing work in Alabama.