OSHA covered familiar territory as it doled out citations and fines in the third quarter of 2019. Excavation, fall and trenching hazards dominate the list, although there is one entry that deals with asbestos violations.
OSHA did experience a shift during the quarter, however, when the Labor Department named a new director of the agency's Directorate of Construction (DOC). Scott Ketcham has been with OSHA for almost 20 years and according to the agency, has a strong construction background.
The DOC is the department that oversees OSHA's Office of Engineering Services (OES), which investigates some construction accidents like the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse. What the agency still lacks, though, is a permanent assistant secretary of labor to lead OSHA.
Here are the top violations from Q3 2019:
Polo Masonry Builders Inc. — Park Ridge, Illinois
Total Proposed Fines: $252,136
Status: Violations Under Contest
OSHA cited Polo Masonry Builders Inc. for not protecting its employees from fall and scaffolding hazards after inspecting one of the builder's commercial building projects in Chicago. OSHA has cited Polo for fall protection violations 13 times since 2010, and, of the seven current citations, five were categorized as "repeat." Because of the company's history, OSHA enrolled it in the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
During a visit to the Polo jobsite in March 2019, some of the violations that OSHA inspectors observed were that employers were working from tubular welded frame scaffolds with neither base nor mudsill installed; employees working 3 feet above scaffolds were not given appropriate access to them; workers were exposed to falls of more than 19 feet because of a lack of guardrails; and employees were exposed to falls of more than 16 feet while working on balconies with unprotected edges.
OSHA also determined that Polo did not use rebar caps to protect its workers from impalement hazards and that the company did not maintain and submit the required injury and illness logs.
Polo has contested the $252,136 of fines and all citations.
R.V. Wagner Inc. — St. Louis, Missouri
Total Proposed Fines: $212,158
Status: Violations Under Contest
While St. Louis, Missouri-based civil, commercial and industrial contractor R.V. Wagner Inc. was installing concrete stormwater pipes for a project in St. Louis, OSHA inspectors found that the company had exposed its employees to trench, excavation and other hazards and fined Wagner $212,158. In total, OSHA issued the company four serious and two willful violations.
During a January 2019 inspection, the agency determined that Wagner had not provided helmets in order to protect its employees from head and other injuries; failed to protect workers from struck-by hazards — i.e. loose rock or soil — while they were working in an excavation; allowed employees to keep working while heavy loads of materials were lifted over their heads; failed to have a competent person conduct daily inspections of the excavation and surrounding areas; did not provide a safe means of egress from trench excavations more than 4 feet deep; and did not provide a trench box or other protection in excavations deeper than 5 feet.
Like Polo, Wagner Inc. has contested the fines and citations.
Roofing Solutions LLC — Charleston, West Virginia
Total Proposed Fines: $202,988
After receiving complaints about Charleston, West Virginia-based Roofing Solutions LLC, OSHA sent inspectors to two of the company's worksites in April of this year and, at the end of September, proposed total fines of $202,988 after issuing the company one repeat, two serious and four willful violations.
OSHA said that the company had exposed its workers to fall hazards, as well as to other safety and health threats while working on the two projects. These included not providing employees with adequate eye protection; failure to provide required fall protection — i.e. guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems — for employees working at heights of up to 29 feet above a lower level; not training employees about fall hazards; and failure to provide protective head gear.
The violation penalties total $158,171, but OSHA proposed an additional penalty of $44,817 for failure to abate the original violations. Unlike the top two on the list, OSHA records do not show whether Roofing Solutions has yet contested the OSHA citations and penalties.
Rex Harper dba REH Property Maintenance — Jamestown, New York
Total Proposed Fines: $168,772
Status: Pending Penalty Payment
OSHA cited Rex Harper – doing business as REH Property Maintenance in Jamestown, New York – 19 times for violations related to improper asbestos removal and disposal in August and fined the company $168,772. The agency issued the citations for five serious and 14 willful violations.
According to agency inspectors, REH was hired by another Jamestown company, Superior Steel Door & Trim Co., based in Jamestown, New York, to move asbestos from some piping.
OSHA said that REH, among other violations, did not use proper engineering controls and work practices that asbestos removal requires; used the wrong type of respirators; did not require the use of protective clothing and did not make sure that asbestos-contaminated clothing was washed or sealed; did not mark off the work area as required; and did not have a competent person conducting exposure assessments prior to beginning work.
The agency also cited Superior, issuing the company five citations for serious violations. OSHA said the company failed to determine the presence, location and quantity of asbestos-containing materials; did not develop and implement a chemical hazard communication program; and for a fall hazard involving a forklift. The company negotiated the proposed fine of $12,124 down to $8,000.
Europa Associates Corp. — Kearny, New Jersey
Total Proposed Fines: $157,528
Status: Violations Under Contest
OSHA fined Europa Associates Inc., a poured concrete foundation and structure contractor based in Kearny, New Jersey, $157,528, after inspecting one of its jobsites in April.
The agency issued the contractor citations for eight serious and three repeat violations for breaches of safety standards related to housekeeping (protruding nails); duty to have fall protection (unprotected sides and edges); fall protection systems criteria and practice (guardrail systems); operator qualification and certification; proper use of ladders; safety training and education; and general requirements for concrete and masonry construction.
Europa has contested the citations and associated fines.
J.H. Berra Construction Co. Inc. — St. Louis, Missouri
Total Proposed Fines: $143,206
Status: Closed (Informal Settlement)
OSHA fined St. Louis, Missouri contractor J.H. Berra Construction Co. Inc. $143,206 and hit the contractor with citations for one repeat and two serious violations after inspectors said they saw Berra employees working in a trench without adequate protection.
OSHA paperwork indicates that, in February, inspectors observed employees installing sanitary sewer pipe in a 13-foot to 14-foot trench without sufficient means of egress for at least one employee. The agency also said Berra failed to make daily inspections of the excavation area and that it did not provide nor require the use of benching, sloping, shoring or any other system meant to prevent cave-ins.
Berra, through an informal settlement process with OSHA, was able to negotiate its fine down to $71,603.