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Feds Target 'Serial' Roofing Violator

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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A Maine roofing contractor with a lengthy OSHA record could face jail time for defying a 2011 federal court order to correct safety hazards and pay more than $400,000 in fines, according to authorities.

The U.S. Labor Department has asked a judge to hold Stephan Lessard, the owner of Lessard Roofing & Siding Inc. and Lessard Brothers Construction Inc., of Greene, ME, in civil contempt, according to an announcement made Wednesday (March 11).

OSHA
OSHA

Many of Lessard's violations involve fall hazards, including lack of fall protection equipment, according to OSHA officials.

DOL filed the motion last month with the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Seeking a contempt order, such as this, is a stringent and infrequent action, but one that is more than warranted in this case," Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor for New England, said in a statement.

"We have asked the court to subject [Lessard] to strong sanctions, including incarceration if necessary, should he continue to flout the law and the court's earlier order."

The $404,485 overdue to OSHA does not include $287,000 in new fines imposed against Lessard in January.

'Unfair Target'

Lessard said he had been "unfairly targeted" by competitors who file complaints with the federal safety agency in an effort to put him out of business, according to a statement provided to the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal.

The contractor told the newspaper that he had not paid the fines because he could not afford them.

“I don’t make that kind of money,” he told the Sun Journal.

In operation for 27 years, Lessard’s business nets $60,000 a year, he said.

Lessard said his company was "one of the few" that used safety harnesses when they are needed. He said  OSHA inspectors took photos when workers were unclipping their harnesses to take a break or before they donned the gear to work, the report said.

“We were making the attempt to have safety,” he said.

Money
Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

The contractor says his business does not make enough money to pay the fines.

Lessard plans to report the contractors he believes to be targeting him.

“If I have to comply, they’ll have to comply,” he told the news bureau.

OSHA Record

Federal labor officials say Lessard continues to defy a December 2011 court order to correct violations cited by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration from 2003 to 2011.

During that time, Lessard’s companies were cited for a total of 48 safety violations at 11 different work sites in Maine, OSHA said.

The cases alleged multiple serious, repeat and/or willful violations of OSHA fall-protection, scaffold, ladder, electrical, head-protection and other health and safety standards. 

‘Disturbing’ Violations

"What's especially disturbing is that many of the violations involve fall hazards, which are the primary cause of death in construction work, the industry in which Mr. Lessard and his companies operate,” said Maryann Medeiros, OSHA's area director in Maine.

In each case, Lessard did not respond to the citations and the citations turned into final orders, requiring him to provide OSHA with proof of correction and payment of the assessed fines.

Gavel
Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

The Labor Department has asked the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to hold the contractor in civil contempt. He could face jail time if he does not comply.

Ultimately, the department sought and obtained an enforcement decree that required the contractor to:

  • Abate the violations in the citations;
  • Pay $404,485 in penalties;
  • Cease and desist from violating OSHA standards; and
  • Notify OSHA's area director of steps taken to comply with the decree.

New OSHA Case

Despite the order, Lessard’s companies have failed to pay the fines and continue to put workers at risk, according to OSHA.

In January, the roofing contractor was issued $287,000 in proposed penalties for alleged violations—two serious, two willful, and two repeat—for fall-related hazards at a Lewiston work site.

OSHA's July 18, 2014, inspection found employees exposed to falls of eight to 12 feet without required fall protection. The contractor also failed to provide training to recognize fall hazards, OSHA alleged.

"This is scofflaw behavior by a serial violator who demonstrates contempt—not only for the law and the U.S. Court of Appeals, but for the safety and lives of his employees," said Medeiros.

   

Tagged categories: Citations; Contractors; Enforcement; Ethics; Fall protection; OSHA; Roofing contractors

Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/17/2015, 11:33 AM)

Hmmmm..."48 safety violations at 11 different work sites" in 8 years. If you believe Mr. Lessard, someone has had a very longstanding, widespread grudge against him or OSHA is everywhere observing for that instant when the guys aren't tied off and issuing a citation right then and there. July case: workers observed at 8'-12' with no fall protection...but Lessard claims to provide harnesses when they are needed. I wonder if that means he doesn't think they are needed until 15' or 20'? With companies like this out there, is it any wonder that falls are a top killer and a top source of injury in the workplace?


Comment from Anita Brack, (3/19/2015, 7:31 PM)

What is really amazing is that he is still allowed to do business even that many violations. I guess it pays to be a big company working in multiple states, because if this my small company OSHA would have closed me down already. Sad that they are able to get away with these many violations!


Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/23/2015, 4:48 PM)

Anita, I would suspect that if Lessard wasn't ignoring the fines he would be out of business. Maybe they need to go after the corporate officers to collect the fines (jail time for the contempt, seize a house or two depending on the corporate structure to pay the fines). Sad thing is, even if Lessard shuts down both Lessard Roofing & Siding Inc. and Lessard Brothers Construction Inc., I suspect he'd hang a new shingle with a different name (Stephan and Co. Inc., perhaps?) and just carry on.


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