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A roofing contractor and 14 affiliates must overhaul their safety programs to incorporate management duties, training, and workplace standards, in addition to paying a fine, under a settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Sept. 1 (Secretary of Labor v. Nations Roof of New England, LLC, OSHRC, No. 10-1674, 07/25/11).
The settlement is an example of OSHA's effort to pursue corporatewide solutions rather than individual actions if the violations occur at multiple locations. The agency issued guidelines on corporatewide settlements in June that broadened the scope of violations that could be addressed (41 OSHR 567, 6/30/11).
It is the first agreement of such breadth executed by OSHA's Region 1 headquarters in New England.
The settlement between OSHA and Nations Roof LLC, based in Lithia Springs, Ga., and its affiliated companies calls for the roofing contractors to overhaul their safety programs and pay a $34,750 fine.
“Instead of taking a piecemeal approach to safety, Nations Roof and its affiliates will implement and maintain a uniform nationwide program that will enhance safeguards against falls and other construction hazards for hundreds of roofers,” Michael Felsen, the Labor Department's regional solicitor in Boston, said in a Sept. 1 statement disclosing the agreement.
Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator, said the settlement allows Nations Roof to do more than correct the hazards and pay a fine.
“It commits itself to a proactive safety and health culture that will emphasize training and awareness to minimize roofing and construction hazards company wide,” she said
Nations Roof's attorney, Philip Siegel of Hendrick, Phillips, Salzman & Flatt in Atlanta, had a different take on the agreement.
“A lot this [safety practice] is already in place,” Siegel told BNA Sept. 6.
Nations Roof accepted the settlement in order to prevent OSHA from treating Nations Roof and the affiliates as a “single entity,” a designation that could have cost the roofing contractors tens of thousands of dollars and upset the business relationships between the affiliates, all separately owned and managed,” Siegel said.
Under a single entity designation, a violation an affiliate was cited for can be considered when deciding the penalty for another affiliate's new infraction if the violations were within five years of each other. That could have led to the roofing contractors facing a $70,000 penalty for each infraction that was deemed a repeat violation by OSHA. With the settlement, the roofing contractors are not held responsible for each others' violations.
The settlement also reduces two proposed repeat violations to serious violations and cut the proposed fine of $83,000 to $34,750.
In the past two years OSHA has moved toward enterprisewide and corporatewide enforcement actions and settlements when problems are found at more than one company location. The effort includes the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, aimed at employers with multiple willful and repeat violations, which often leads to corporate-wide inspections. Nations Roof has not been included in SVEP.
The settlement was signed by attorneys for both sides during the last week of July and will become final Sept. 14 if it is approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The commission has jurisdiction because Nations Roof appealed the original violation citation.
The settlement specifies detailed requirements, down to the minimum number of minutes for weekly construction site “toolbox talks” on safety.
The requirements, which must be in place by Dec. 31, include:
• Nations Roof's management development plan for senior officers must include a safety and health curriculum.
• Each affiliate must appoint a management-level employee to be its safety and health director. Directors must spend at least a third of their time at work focused on safety and health issues.
• The safety and health directors must complete a 30-hour course covering construction safety and health standards and a 30-hour course teaching the directors how to be trainers.
• All supervisors must complete a 30-hour construction safety and health standards course.
• Every non-supervisory employee must complete a 10-hour construction safety and health standards course.
• All employees whose work exposes them to potential falls of six feet or more must complete an eight-hour fall-protection course.
• The contractors must set aside at least two days each year for mandatory safety and health training.
• At construction sites, workers must take part in weekly “toolbox talk” safety sessions addressing safety issues at the worksites. The sessions must last at least 10 minutes.
• The affiliates must implement site-specific safety plans for each job site. The plans must detail hazards and the required fall-protection equipment.
• Superintendents or project managers must conduct weekly safety inspections of every construction site, and designated “competent persons” must conduct construction site safety inspections every working day.
• Annually, each affiliate will have four construction sites undergo an unannounced inspection by Nation Roof headquarters.
This enforcement action began in February 2010 when OSHA inspectors responding to a complaint checked a commercial construction project in Hudson, N.H., involving Nations Roof of New England. OSHA cited Nations Roof of New England with a dozen serious violations including fall hazards, a lack of safety training, lack of head protection, and improper use of ladders. Later, OSHA amended its complaint, upgrading two serious violations to repeat infractions.
Prior to that inspection, OSHA had cited Nations Roof affiliates 21 times as a result of nine inspections starting in 2006, OSHA inspection records show.
In addition to the Connecticut-based Nations Roof of New England, the affiliates covered by the settlement include Nations Roof National Service Center and Nations Roof South, both in Georgia; Nations Roof East in New York; Nations Roof North in Wisconsin; Nations Roof of California; Nations Roof West in California; Nations Roof of Carolinas in North Carolina; Nations Roof of Florida; Nations Roof South Florida; Nations Roof Central in Texas; Nations Roof MidAtlantic in Virginia; Nations Roof of Illinois; and Nations Roof of Ohio.
By Bruce Rolfsen
The settlement agreement is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=jstn-8lbru3 .
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