Feds sue New Jersey contractor for $679K to resolve delinquent OSHA fines
- The federal government has filed a lawsuit against a New Jersey construction company in an effort to collect $678,053 of past-due fines levied by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- The lawsuit, filed Feb. 6 by the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, alleges that Palisades Park, New Jersey, contractor Frame Q owes fines resulting from eight jobsite inspections dating back to March 2014. The original fines total $473,178, but the government has added penalties, interest and other charges, including an extra $173,100 for Department of Justice and U.S. Treasury fees. Frame Q contested at least one of the fines, but its claim was rejected because it filed its Notice of Contest too late.
- The lawsuit does not include a proposed fine of $261,451 for one serious and three repeated violations from another site inspection on July 11, 2018. All the inspections were planned and list falls as their primary emphasis.
OSHA’s Region 2, which encompasses the area where Frame Q does business and includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, has an ongoing Regional Emphasis Program (REP) on fall hazards. Construction industry REPs and Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) target hazards like falls or precarious tasks like excavation and trenching. When an REP is in effect, OSHA offices typically reach out to the local construction community in order to educate firms and make them aware of the specific hazard and to plan more targeted jobsite inspections. Contractors can check here to identify their regions and to see the REPs and LEPs that are underway.
Falls continue to be the focus of REPs and LEPs because they are one of the leading causes of construction worker injuries and deaths. Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data, OSHA’s Office of the Regional Administrator for Region 2 reported that of the 971 construction fatalities in 2017, 40% (386) were related to slips, trips and falls. More than half (55%) of the fatalities in Region 2 were a result of falls.
One of the largest fines OSHA proposed in the fourth quarter of 2018 — $311,330 — was for fall violations. It came after an employee of Northeast Framing, based in Leominster, Massachusetts, fell to his death on a Boston construction site. The agency issued Northeast seven serious, two other-than-serious and two willful violations after OSHA inspectors came to the conclusion that the firm did not train its employees to recognize hazards nor did it provide them with fall protection, among other breaches. Northeast has contested the violations and accompanying fines.
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