I was pleased to read in the Geneva Finger Lakes Times today that a regional representative of OSHA (federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration), Jennifer Lawless, speaking at Geneva’s Ramada Inn, announced that, under the Obama administration, OSHA is stepping up compliance enforcement in the Syracuse and Central New York area, especially at outdoor work sites, such as construction sites.
We at Michaels & Smolak have consistently, year after year, brought Syracuse area construction accident lawsuits where compliance with OSHA and other safety regulations would have prevented devastating fall-related injuries. We know firsthand that Construction employers in Central New York often ignore OSHA and other safety regulations.
The OSHA regulations, if followed, would help prevent many of the devastating injuries, and deaths, that result from workers falling off ladders, scaffolds, buildings, roofs and other structures. For example, just this week, OSHA fined a construction company $539,000 for a roofer’s 40-foot fall to his death at a Washington, Pennsylvania construction site. According to OSHA’s website, the construction company “failed to provide any fall protection to its employees working on a pitched roof 40 feet off the ground”. A spokesman from OSHA said the employer “knowingly and willfully failed to protect his workers from falling to their death” and that OSHA “will not tolerate this type of blatant and egregious disregard for the health and safety of workers.” The very same day, OSHA fined a Pittsburgh construction company $70,000 for failing to provide fall protection to a construction worker who fell 225 feet to his death on a construction site. The same company had already been fined in 2007 for the same violations, but apparently did not “learn its lesson”.
OSHA’s increased safety enforcement in Syracuse and Central New York, while welcome, is probably not enough. Unfortunately, OSHA’s fines are not a significant enough deterrent for many employers. They still find it cheaper to skirt safety compliance and pay the occasional fines. What really catches the construction employers’ attention, though, is not an OSHA fine, but rather a construction accident lawsuit. In New York, special construction accident laws (especially Labor Law sections 200, 240, 241) help injured construction workers and their families get compensation in court for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loved one’s wrongful death. I have posted blogs about these New York Labor Laws before. To read prior blogs on this subject, click here, here, and here.
Michaels & Smolak will continue to do its job of bringing lawsuits on behalf of injured construction workers when construction companies fail to abide by safety regulations, and OSHA will continue to do its job of fining construction companies for such violations. Perhaps this one-two punch will one-day finally deliver the following important message to the construction industry: “Safety pays, and if you don’t believe it, you will pay, and pay dearly.”