Business

A roofer on fire at OSHA while facing a $91,000 fine for fourth citation in a year

Bloomberg

For the seventh time in less than four years and the fourth time in a year, OSHA has busted a Fort Myers-based roofing company for not providing proper fall protection. The violation’s “Repeat” classification could cost Ad-Ler $91,466.

Ad-Ler also has its problems with OSHA, and that fine is one.

In an eight-paragraph email to the Miami Herald, Ad-Ler Chief Operations Officer Ryan Gartrell excoriated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for punishing companies but not the employees when an individual flouts known standards and being more concerned with making money than effectively creating safe workplaces.

“We fully understand their mission and support it; but we don’t feel that their method of enforcement does anything to further Employee Safety in our occupation,” Gartrell wrote. “We also feel that their enforcement can be selective at times and based on prior histories and deeper pockets.”

In the last eight months, eight Florida companies — Crown Roofing, Bluewater Construction, Coastal Roofing, Panama City Framing, Elo Restoration (twice), Florida Roofing Experts, Turnkey Construction Planners and Ad-Ler — have been fined under OSHA’s Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction.

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Orlando’s Kasper Roofing received a proposed $134,510 fine after a worker died from a fall off a one-story Maitland home. According to OSHA.gov, Kasper is contesting the violations.

Individual employees aren’t fined by OSHA. Gartrell points out an employee speeding in a company car or truck can’t blame the employer for providing a car that exceeds the speed limit.

“OSHA regulations and enforcement is the opposite,” his email read. “You can provide an employee fall protection equipment; training in its use; on the job training; hold tailgate meetings; safety meetings, perform more than 8,000 internal inspections per year, fine employees for not following safety procedure, reward ones that do and yet OSHA drives by and sees one guy not wearing a harness and it amounts to a $91,000 violation for the employer and nothing at all for the employee.

“The employee has to have some dog in the fight and has to have some level of concern for his/her own safety at some point. A company cannot compete in this marketplace having one babysitter per employee, which was OSHA’s recommendation at our last meeting.”

After each proposed fine, businesses have the option of paying, having an informal meeting with the area director or contesting the fine. Ad-Ler says it’ll have an informal meeting Thursday.

Informal settlements reduced Ad-Ler’s $2,000 fine in 2015 for fall protection failure to $1,200; $7,920 to $4,752 as a repeat violator later in 2015; $34,650 to $13,860 in 2016; $64,023 to $34,000 in April 2018; $38,801 to $19,400 in July 2018; and $9,959 to $5,975 in October.

Ad-Ler’s latest fine comes from a violation spotted July 23. OSHA says a worker was “exposed to a fall hazard greater than 11-feet to ground level” installing tiles on the roof at a Naples home without fall protection.

Gartrell says Ad-Ler will point to its safety training program and numerous safety inspections, but doesn’t expect much relief: “It is quick money and a quick closure stat for the local office. We are not hopeful that they will agree with us on anything other than how fast can you pay us. As you know Area Directors are the persons that set the fine, it is rare to get one to overrule themselves.”

Gartrell’s email claims Ad-Ler gets fined more often because it does more jobs that are more visible and their safety record is comparable to other roofers that do similar jobs with similar volume. Latite Roofing & Sheet Metal has 13 fall protection citations in the last 4 1/2 years and Crown Roofing has been written up 19 times for fall protection violations in the last three years and a month.

“A roofer that does a three day job on a house off the beaten path has no fear of being caught,” he wrote. “It takes OSHA a week to respond to a complaint, and by the time they get there, the job is done. Roofers that do large projects are in the same place for months and years and not hard to locate.”

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Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.


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