A New York masonry and painting contractor whose employee fell from a sixth-floor balcony is contesting the $136,000 federal tab in the case, blaming the accident on employee misconduct.
A fall from a sixth-floor balcony spurred the investigatin of the 23-year-old commercial contractor.
The worker landed on a fifth-floor balcony and survived the March accident. Nevertheless, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Blade Contracting Inc., of Staten Island, for seven safety violations— one willful, two repeat, and four serious—at a commercial construction site in Jersey City, NJ.
The company, which has a history of OSHA violations, says it is contesting the citations, which allegations of makeshift scaffolding and other infractions.
“OSHA is incorrect with regard to the facts and circumstances and has taken isolated instances of employee misconduct and is using that as a basis for citations,” Joseph W. Rufolo, the company’s safety representative, told the Staten Island Advance.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fall Spurs Investigation
Site investigations were initiated when a worker fell just over 10 feet from a sixth-floor balcony to the fifth floor while trying to access a suspension scaffold, OSHA said.
Reports indicate the incident occurred on March 16.
Blade’s representative said the employee “took a shortcut” and failed to follow safety procedures at the worksite. He climbed over balcony rails to try to get onto the scaffold, failing to use the scaffold’s two access ladders, according to the newspaper.
Blade Contracting Inc.
|MBE-certified Blade Contracting bills itself as “one of the leading high-rise masonry specialists in the tri-state area.”|
Shortcut or no, OSHA said the employee had not been protected by a guardrail system, safety-net system, or personal fall-arrest system when he fell.
For the incident, OSHA cited the contractor with a repeat violation carrying a $10,780 fine. The company received a similar citation in December 2007.
“Fall hazards are a leading cause of death in the construction industry, and therefore it is critical that employers provide workers with proper fall protection,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “Employers are responsible for ensuring safe and healthful workplaces, and will be held legally accountable when they fail to do so.”
Willful: Makeshift Devices
The willful violation involves workers allegedly walking and working on makeshift scaffolding platforms on June 5. OSHA says its inspector observed workers on top of bricks and planks erected on the scaffolding to increase the working height.
That violation carries a $53,900 penalty.
A “willful” violation is one committed with intentional knowledge or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Repeat, Serious Problems
OSHA also hit the contractor with another repeat violation, carrying a $53,900 fine, involving unprotected workers on scaffolds more than 10 feet above a lower level.
The agency observed employees walking and working on tubular frame scaffold, unprotected from fall hazards of about 27 feet.
The company was cited for similar violations in 2007 and 2010.
Moreover, the company faces four “serious” violations for failure to:
• Install cross bracing on the entire scaffold;
• Ensure personal fall arrest systems were attached to a secure anchorage point and not scaffold guard rails;
• Train workers to recognize and avoid hazards, including falls; and
• Ensure proper step ladder use.
Those violations total $17,710 in fines.
A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious injurycould result from a hazard about which the employer knew, or should have known.
About the Company
Blade Contracting has 23 years of experience in masonry restoration and roofing and 10 years of commercial construction experience, according to its website. Its services include waterproofing, painting, high-pressure cleaning, masonry coating, and brownstone and stucco finishes.