As one Connecticut-based employer discovered recently, safety violations in the workplace can be extremely costly.
The Stamford-based contractor was facing $196,000 in fines for two willful and 12 serious violations following an inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management LLC, was cited by the agency following a November 2013 inspection at a Bridgeport worksite, which found that workers demolishing and rehabbing a building were exposed to potentially fatal crushing injuries and other hazards due to their employer’s failure to brace the building’s walls and adhere to basic, legally required safeguards.
“This employer’s disregard of basic demolition safety fundamentals is unacceptable. The seriousness of this hazard can be seen in the June 5, 2013, building collapse in Philadelphia that killed six people and injured 14,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “While no collapse occurred in Bridgeport, the hazard was real, present and entirely avoidable.”
“The removal of flooring from the second and thirds floors left an empty, unsupported shell that was vulnerable to collapse,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport. “Employees at this job site were also exposed to falls of up to 36 feet from unguarded wall openings and to health hazards from inadequate measures to protect them from exposure to lead at the worksite. Worker safety and health were blatantly ignored.”
Maximum Allowable Fines of $140K
OSHA cited Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management, for two willful violations, with maximum allowable fines of $140,000 for the wall collapse and fall hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
A total of 12 serious violations, with $56,000 in fines, were cited for a variety of health and safety hazards. These included having workers dry sweep and shovel lead-containing waste materials and debris, as well as failing to supply workers with proper training, respiratory protection, protective clothing and equipment. In addition, employees were provided inadequate demolition, fall and fire protection, and general safety training.
Other safety hazards included unmarked emergency exits, improper storage of oxygen and fuel gas cylinders, and electrical 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 if an accident were to occur.
Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management, was provided with 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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