In recent years, we have written extensively about the huge increases in fines and other penalties assessed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These fines are multiplied in situations where the alleged violations are deemed to be repeat or willful. Earlier this month, OSHA announced that it has fined a New Jersey residential roofing contractor over $687,000 for what it characterized as a “callous” ignorance of legal requirements.
OSHA noted that the employer had suffered two employee fatalities over the past four years relating to falls. In its latest inspection, OSHA cited the employer when it observed two company employees working 18 feet off the ground without fall protection. Even though no employees were injured in this situation, the agency characterized the violations as “willful serious,” which allows OSHA to multiply the maximum fine by a factor of ten.
Falls continue to be a leading cause of employee injuries and deaths in the construction industry. OSHA has long placed an emphasis on the enforcement of its fall protection requirements. The difference for employers now is the magnitude of the proposed penalties assessed by OSHA. Fines that once might have been considered a cost of doing business now can impose serious financial consequences on the business going forward.