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June 07, 2024
New Jersey contractor facing $819K OSHA fine

Following 8 inspections and an alleged 32 violations over a 4-month period, Road Contractor Corp., a Long Branch, New Jersey, construction contractor, faces $819,417 in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties, the agency announced June 5. The employer exposed employees to potentially deadly fall hazards at eight worksites, according to OSHA.

The agency cited Road Contractor after inspections at two sites on November 16, 2023, and six others on December 14, January 30, February 6, February 29, March 8, and March 19. OSHA opened the inspections under its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for fall hazards—launched in May 2023.

The employer failed to provide workers with required fall safety protection, according to OSHA. Agency investigators also cited the company for the following:

  • Allowing employees to use portable ladders unsafely,
  • Exposing employees to silica hazards and failing to train workers to recognize them,
  • Allowing the operation of machines without required guards,
  • Failing to have hazard communication or written exposure control programs, and
  • Not providing employees with eye and face protection.

“Since July 2023, we have found in 24 inspections that Road Contractor Corp. exposed its employees routinely to dangerous falls and other safety hazards common in residential construction,” Paula Dixon-Roderick, OSHA’s Marlton, New Jersey, area office director, said in an agency statement.

Last fall, OSHA announced that its construction industry fall protection standard was its most frequently cited standard for 13 straight years. In fiscal year (FY) 2023, it cited 7,271 violations of 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1926.501.

Judge upholds whistleblower citation

A federal administrative law judge (ALJ) upheld OSHA’s citation of a Houston crane and rigging services provider for firing a company truck driver who refused to exceed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service regulations, OSHA announced June 4.

A driver employed by Crane Masters Inc. told the employer that, after working 19 hours, it would be unsafe to operate a commercial motor vehicle because the driver hadn’t taken the legally required amount of time off before returning to work. The Houston employer responded by terminating the driver.

Agency investigators determined that the company fired the employee illegally for exercising protected whistleblower rights. The Labor Department’s regional solicitor in Dallas presented the department’s case in a formal hearing in Houston.

OSHA’s whistleblower protection authority was first established in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to protect workers who lodge safety or health complaints or who cooperate with agency investigations of workplace safety and health violations. OSHA is now responsible for investigating whistleblower complaints under more than 20 federal statutes, covering everything from aviation, motor carrier, and pipeline safety to anti-money laundering, criminal antitrust, and securities.

“In this case, Crane Masters Inc. was held accountable for retaliating against an employee who acted responsibly by raising their concerns about endangering themselves and others by operating a commercial vehicle without sufficient rest,” Eric S. Harbin, OSHA’s Dallas regional administrator, said in a statement.

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