4 contractors expose workers to potentially fatal falls at Easthampton, Massachusetts, renovation project

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Employers face more than $110K in fines for failing to provide protections

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Workers doing renovation at the former Dye Works at 15 Cottage St. in Easthampton faced potentially fatal falls of up to 40 feet because their employers failed to provide proper protection, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found. OSHA inspectors visited the work site on July 11, 2014, in response to a complaint about fall hazards there.

'Falls are the number one killer in construction work. When fall protection is absent or deficient, as it was here, employees may be only moments away from a deadly or disabling plunge that could kill them or end their careers,' said Mary Hoye, OSHA's area director in Springfield.

In all, four contractors were cited and fined $110,670 by OSHA. The project's general contractor, James J. Welch & Co. Inc., of Salem, was cited for the majority of the violations. OSHA found several fall hazards; no fall protection for employees working on the roof; unguarded floor holes; insufficient anchorage for fall protection; and employees untrained to recognize fall hazards. Because of these conditions, Welch was cited for one willful, one repeat and three serious violations of workplace safety standards, with $93,170 in proposed fines.

This is not the first time OSHA investigated this work site for safety violations. In July 2014, OSHA cited Connecticut-based abrasive blasting contractor Maher Industries, doing business as A Fast Blast, for lead, silica and respirator violations and proposed $47,600 in fines. The company is currently contesting its citations and fines.

'The sizable penalties reflect not only the danger of the fall hazards involved, but also the employer's knowledge of the hazards and its deliberate failure to safeguard its employees,' said Hoye.

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning contractor Atlantis Comfort Systems Corp., of Smithfield, Rhode Island, was cited for two serious violations, with $7,000 in fines, for failure to ensure the use of fall protection and failure to document fall protection training.

Masonry subcontractor Jean Beauthier, doing business as All Custom Masonry, of Rutland, was cited for two serious violations, with $5,600 in fines, for failure to provide fall protection for employees working on a scaffold and for using a scaffold that was not fully planked.

Finally, window contractor J&R Glass Service, of Fitchburg, was cited for one serious violation, with a fine of $4,900, for not protecting an employee from possible falls through a wall opening. 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.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A repeat violation exists when an employer has been cited previously for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

View the citations for James J. Welch*, Atlantic Comfort Systems*, All Custom Masonry* and J & R Glass Service*.

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that seven workers died in construction-related falls in Massachusetts in 2012. To raise awareness of fall hazards and safeguards among workers, employers and the public, OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.

Each employer has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Springfield Area Office at 413-785-0123.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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