Why Do Roofers Fall From Roofs? Is it just because of gravity?

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

This is a timely post as I just received notice that the Department of Labor and Industries investigated a fraud case against an employer in Lake Stevens, WA that did not cover his employees for workers’ compensation. This was not the first time the Department had contact with this employer for this same issue, either. This time, charges were filed and the employer was sentenced to sixty days in jail, converted to house arrest.

Roofers, of all workers, need their workers’ compensation coverage!

Today I received an urgent call from attorney representing a client in New Jersey who fell from a roof. Before she told me the job description of the injured worker, now in a coma, I correctly anticipated that it was probably a roofer who had fallen from a roof, yet again.

This scenario has played out in workers’ compensation claims for decades. How the accident happened is usually an argument with the employer. The employer claims that the employee was either intoxicated or not following safety precautions. My instinct always tell me that this is probably incorrect, since roofers tend to lose their balance and fall for many other reasons, including “gravity.”  Some reason a deprivation of oxygen and/or exposure to toxic neurological irritants contained in the roofing materials, and weather related events that make roofs slippery.

It is good news that OSHA is moving forward with enforcement against roofing companies for failure to observe safety precautions and protect employees from unnecessary and unwarranted falls from roofs.  This is surely a welcome sign.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Amilicar Samper Perez, doing business as Roof Systems of Connecticut, for alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards while its workers installed a roof on Page Street in Milford. The Milford-based roofing contractor faces a total of $44,880 in proposed fines, chiefly for fall hazards identified during an inspection by OSHA’s Bridgeport Area Office that began in November 2012.

OSHA found workers exposed to falls of up to 11 feet 2 inches while they installed roofing without the use of fall protection. The workers had not been trained to recognize fall hazards and workers using a pneumatic nail gun were not wearing eye protection. OSHA had cited Perez in 2008 and 2009 for similar hazards at work sites in Milford and Hamden.

As a result of these recurring hazards, OSHA issued the employer three repeat citations with $37,400 in fines. 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. Perez was also issued three serious citations with $7,480 in fines for ladder hazards and not training workers to recognize ladder 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.

“Our inspectors all too often encounter job sites where fall protection is inadequate or absent,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport. “Lack of fall protection means employees are one slip or step away from deadly or disabling falls. For the safety and well-being of their workers, employers must provide effective fall protection for their employees and ensure that their workers are trained to recognize and address fall hazards.”

OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls 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.

The 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 Bridgeport office at 203-579-5581.

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.