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OSHA issues $243k fine for repeat safety violations
June 13, 2011
Lewiston, ME

The fines for Lessard Brothers Construction of Lewiston, Maine, follow a December inspection that resulted in citations for alleged egregious wilful, serious and repeat violations for a lack of fall protection and other hazards. OSHA previously had cited Lessard Brothers Construction and its predecessor, Lessard Roofing & Siding, 10 times for fall protection violations at various Maine work sites.

OSHA inspectors found four Lessard employees exposed to potentially life-threatening falls of 7m while working without fall protection on a steep-pitched roof at a work site on Elm Street in Lewiston. Management's knowledge of the hazard and the required safeguards, along with the company's extensive history of violations, led to Lessard being cited for four egregious wilful violations with US$224,000 in proposed fines. A wilful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

"This employer ignored the law and put workers' lives at risk," said assistant secretary of labour for OSHA David Michaels. "OSHA's commonsense regulations save lives. Employers who ignore these regulations and endanger their employees will face the consequences."

In addition, Lessard was cited for two serious violations with US$10,560 in proposed fines for an electrical hazard, and for failing to train workers on electrical hazards and fall protection. The company also was cited for one repeat violation with a proposed fine of US$8,800 for a lack of hard hat protection.

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 repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited 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.

"Falls are the number one killer in construction work," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "Employees in situations such as this are just one slip, trip or misstep away from a fatal or disabling fall. Responsible employers must ensure that effective fall protection measures are in place and in use every day on every job site."

This enforcement action qualifies Lessard Brothers Construction for OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP), which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in 2010, SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing wilful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.

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