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Boss Challenges Worker Noncompliance

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

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A Florida contractor has just notched his sixth and seventh sets of federal safety violations since 2012, this time drawing $184,000 in fines for willful and repeat violations at two work sites.

A crew leader for Great White Construction Inc. told the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on-site inspector that he "was given proper equipment, training and knew the regulations, but chose to ignore them," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville.

Responds company owner Travis Slaughter: "How is that my fault? How is that not employee misconduct? I've done as much as I can for these guys. I know they have been trained. I know they have proper equipment."

SafeRoofer
OSHA

OSHA inspectors saw workers at two locations (not pictured) on low-level pitched roofs without fall protection. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction.

Slaughter says he has run his residential roofing business for seven years, averaging 50 to 60 workers at a time, with zero workers' compensation claims and without anyone suffering "even a hangnail."

Firing Everyone

He says he spent $12,000 last year on training and new safety equipment and, at OSHA's urging, has terminated about 100 employees over the years for safety violations. He says the company's safety rules are laid out to crews "every morning" and "they sign it every morning."

But he can't fire everyone for every oversight, or he will have no company left, he says. Nor can his small business afford to hire a full-time inspector to breathe down the neck of every worker to make sure they are tied in all day every day.

Slaughter says he has asked OSHA what else he should do to ensure compliance. He says he has even asked if he can lock his workers into their fall-protection gear to make sure they are safe. (He can't.)

"I don't know what they [OSHA] want us [employers] to do," he said. "How does this fall back on the contractor?"

Safety Cards?

Slaughter suggests that OSHA develop a system that holds individual workers at least partly responsible for their own safety.

FallProtection
OSHA

Travis Slaughter says OSHA should devise a system to hold individual employees responsible for their training and compliance with safe practices.

For example, he says, a worker could obtain an OSHA-issued Roofer Safety Card indicating that he has been trained in safety practices for roofing work. Slaughter, as an employer, would require such a card by his applicants. If a worker with a card violates safe practices, he—not the employer—would get a ticket from OSHA.

Employers could then check OSHA databases to see if an employee has the training and/or has been ticketed.

If an employer then hires someone without a card indicating that he is trained, OSHA should be able to throw the book at the employer if the employee does something dangerous.

"Ford is not responsible if you get drunk and crash one of their cars," he said. Similarly, safety on the job has to involve personal responsibility.

Violations

OSHA has inspected Great White sites five times since 2012 and has issued multiple citations for repeated and serious violations of residential fall protection and other safety standards.

The current cases involve two different inspections.

On Sept. 25, 2014, OSHA citations say, workers at one site were seen working on an 8.5-foot-high pitch roof without fall protection—a violation deemed willful for which the contractor was fined $70,000.

A repeat violation, with a $22,000 proposed fine, alleges lapses in eye and face protection. Two other violations, regarding training and wiring, carried no fine.

TravisSlaughter
Facebook

"I've done as much as I can for these [employees]," says contractor Travis Slaughter. "I know they have been trained. I know they have proper equipment."

On Oct. 2, OSHA citations say, a Great White employee at another site was seen working without fall protection, resulting in a second willful violation and $70,000 fine.

Employees were also seen using nail guns and circular saws without eye protection, a repeat violation with a $22,000 proposed fine, OSHA said.

Great White was inspected two additional times in 2014, twice in 2013 and once in 2012, with violations issued each time. Those fines currently total more than $20,000, all reduced from their initial penalties.

OSHA's southeastern region has been under a Regional Emphasis Program for Falls in Construction since Oct. 1, 2013.

Contested

Slaughter says he is contesting the current violations. He calls the penalties extreme, noting that fatalities have sometimes drawn a fraction of those fines.

"Do they just sit back there and spin a wheel [to determine a fine]?" he asks.

He says that his company's safety record should be weighed in assessing fines.

"My background in safety is spotless," says Slaughter. "Spotless."

 

   

Tagged categories: Enforcement; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA; Residential contractors; Roofing contractors

Comment from Mike McCloud, (4/7/2015, 7:54 AM)

Sounds to me like someone is dropping a dime on this guy. Employers should be able to fine employees for not obeying the rules. That would make them wear their gear.


Comment from Jorge Servin, (4/7/2015, 8:49 AM)

I agree with Mr Slaugther, It is time for workers to assume their share of responsibility . government entities, employers and workers should work to create the safest environment at a job site,and a database of " unsafe" workers should be available for any employer to consult before hiring .


Comment from M. Halliwell, (4/7/2015, 1:35 PM)

Man....I'm glad my jurisdiction is ahead of the game on this one. Here, workers can be fined directly for their safety issues. OSHA needs to look at Alberta on this one.


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