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The Wrong Way to Save Time and Money: Contractors Behaving Badly

8 January, 2020

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James Taylor, back in the day, wrote a song that told us “there’s room for two up on a roof,” but if he brought a band up there with some guitars (and especially a stand-up bass), he’d need to make sure they had fall protection training and adhered to safety standards. OSHA doesn’t play around when it comes to fall protection – along with the danger it presents to your employees, it’s costly when you’re out of compliance.

Fall protection, for the ninth year in a row, has been named the most oft-cited safety violation. Other common citations include ladder and scaffold safety and failure to train the crew in fall protection. Saving time and money is great, but not at the expense of a life changing injury or that life itself.

Recently in Ohio, a roofing contractor who was cited for “ repeated and serious violations of federal workplace safety standards” is facing penalties of $247,544. Their citations were for exposing employees to fall hazards at construction sites in two Ohio cities and  include failure to install and require the use of a guardrail, safety net, or personal fall arrest system and well as failure to train employees on fall hazards and develop an accident prevention program. Along with that was unsafe ladder use and failure to require eye protection for employees operating pneumatic nail guns. This is the fifth time this contractor has been cited, so perhaps a quarter million will get the point across.

In Illinois, a residential homebuilder is facing $196,905 in penalties for one serious and two willful safety violations. Again, he was cited for putting employees at heights without adequate fall production as well as failure to train them on that topic, with a further notice for failing to train them on safe forklift operations. This contractor has been cited 12 times and has accrued nearly $800,000 in penalties. OSHA had referred this contract o the US Dept. of Treasury for collections.

While some contractors are lax on safety, other are lax on pay. A Florida painting and drywall contractor was ordered to pay $107,890 in back wages owed to 101 employees after allegedly violating the overtime requirement of the Fair Labor Standards Acts. He wanted to save time and money by paying his painters straight time even if they worked more than 40 hours a week. Further, the company didn’t retain accurate payroll records – makes sense, since it didn’t maintain accurate payroll.

"Not only is that unfair to the painters on your job," noted Wage and Hour Jacksonville, Florida district director Daniel White, "it also puts compliant competitors at a disadvantage as they’ll have to bid higher on the same job."

We’re all for saving time and money, but not at the expense of dignity or bodily injury. There’s room for a lot more than two on a roof if it’s done according to safety standards. If you want to tune in James Taylor as a reminder, we’re all for it. After all, he’s the Handy Man as well.

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