A judge upheld an Occupational Safety and Health Administration decision to treat Massachusetts contractors A.C. Castle Construction and Daryl Provencher (Provencher Home Improvements) as a single employer in a case involving injuries to three workers on a job site in October 2014.
The residential roofing contractors fell 20 feet after a wooden plank on a ladder jack scaffold snapped. OSHA determined that the plank wasn’t rated for scaffolding, a fact clearly noted on an invoice for the wood. The workers weren’t wearing fall protection gear, and the scaffold’s components were deemed deficient.
The companies contested the citation as a single employer; general contractor A.C. Castle claimed it wasn’t responsible for the workers' safety since Provencher employed them. A judge determined that the operations were highly integrated. A.C. Castle faces penalties of $173,500, and it has 60 days to seek review by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
Construction remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the US, accounting for one in five worker deaths in 2015, OSHA reported. Falls were by far the most common cause, accounting for 364 of 937 deaths that year, followed by being struck by an object, electrocutions and being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects or otherwise struck in a structural or equipment collapse.
Among the areas that OSHA monitors through inspections, fall protection was the most frequently cited violation in fiscal year 2016, and scaffolding was the third-most-cited violation. Hazard communication, respiratory protection and lockout/tagout violations made up the rest of the top five.
As part of his focus on business activity, President Donald Trump has frozen new regulations, although it’s not yet apparent how OSHA fits into the executive order. One immediately noticeable change is an apparent stoppage of a practice that took a “shaming” approach to reporting safety violations and fines as a method for driving improvements.
Edwin G. Foulke Jr., assistant secretary of labor for OSHA under President George W. Bush, told Construction Dive in March that enforcement won’t stop under Trump, but the focus will likely shift to improving safety and achieving a balance that helps businesses be successful.
For more housing news, sign up for our daily residential construction newsletter.