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November 28, 2023
Wisconsin roofer facing $180K in OSHA fines for fall hazards

Wisconsin roofing contractor Overhead Solutions LLC faces $180,469 in proposed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties for fall protection violations, the agency announced November 27.

Federal workplace safety inspectors observed the company’s employees working about 30 feet above ground on a Menasha apartment complex roof without adequate fall protection. Thirteen days later, an inspector observed a project manager employed by Overhead Solutions handing out caffeinated energy drinks to subcontractors on a 10-foot-high roof in Appleton; however, the workers lacked fall protection and the manager didn’t correct the hazard to protect them from the construction industry’s leading cause of death. 

Falls are one of the construction industry’s “fatal four” hazards, along with caught-in or -between, electrocution, and struck-by hazards. Last month, OSHA announced that the agency’s construction industry fall protection standard was its most frequently cited standard for the 13th straight year. OSHA cited 7,271 violations of the fall protection—general requirements standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1926.501) in fiscal year (FY) 2023, which ended September 30.

At the Menasha site, inspectors found employees were wearing fall protection harnesses and that anchors were installed on the building’s roof with ropes attached to the anchors, but readily accessible lifelines weren’t attached, as required. Inspectors also found employees were exposed to deadly fall hazards as they unloaded a pallet raised to the roof by a mechanical lift. 

At the Appleton worksite, OSHA inspectors found a lack of fall protection, learned the company had no documented accident prevention plan, and noted that the site’s project manager didn’t correct fall protection hazards in plain view. 

OSHA cited Overhead Solutions with four repeat violations and one serious violation of federal fall protection standards. The repeat violations were similar to the ones OSHA cited the company for in Neenah, Seymour, and Wrightstown in 2022.

“Overhead Solutions’ continued willingness to ignore federal safety regulations is putting its employees and subcontractors at risk of potentially serious and fatal injuries,” Robert Bonack, OSHA’s Appleton area office director, said in an agency statement. “By failing to ensure fall protection equipment is used properly and train workers and supervisors to recognize hazards and safety procedures, the company continues to invite disaster.”

OSHA referred to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showing that of the 1,015 construction workers who died on the job in 2021, 379 were related to falls from elevation. Residential construction work is among the most dangerous jobs, according to OSHA, because of workers’ exposure to fall hazards.

Earlier this year, OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) of outreach and enforcement to address fall hazards across industries. The agency’s employer assistance for fall hazards includes a stop falls website, offering safety information and video presentations in English and Spanish to teach workers about fall hazards and proper safety procedures.  

OSHA, along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), sponsors a National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. Resources offered during the stand-down include educational and training materials.

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