The employer of a worker who was crushed to death in a building collapse says he plans to ignore the federal fines imposed in the case.
If so, this will be the second time in three years that Kennebec Home Improvements, of Augusta, ME, has done so.
Maine State Police
|The contractor was working on this Albion, ME, house when it collapsed on top of a worker, killing him.|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is already pressing collection proceedings against the company to recover $6,750 in fines stemming from five serious citations issued in 2010.
‘The Biggest Bully There Is’
Now, company owner Linwood Stover, 55, is facing a new case: three serious safety violations cited after an improperly supported house fell on top of his employee, Bobbie Rodriques, 54.
Rodrigues was killed and Stover suffered a back injury in the collapse May 15. A third employee on site summoned help.
The team had been attempting to replace a post foundation under the building and had jacked up the structure when it “apparently shifted and slipped off the posts,” according to the Maine Department of Public Safety.
The OSHA citations say the company failed to:
• Provide a solid foundation for jacks and place wood blocks above and below jacks;
• Secure the jacks with cribbing or blocking;
• Train employees to recognize unsafe conditions; and
• Have a competent person inspect the job site.
Serious violations, which carry a “substantial probability” of death or serious injury, carry a maximum $7,000 fine. In this case, each violation was assessed at just $3,080.
The amount was drastically reduced because of the company’s small size, but then increased slightly because of its prior violations, according to OSHA.
‘Picking on the Little People’
The Bangor Daily News reported that Stover, who has worked in construction since he was 19, said he wasn’t going to pay the new fines, calling the violations inaccurate.
“We weren’t doing anything they said we were doing,” he told the paper. “Nothing was up on stilts or on our blocks. Everything was on existing posts they had under the camp.” Rodrigues had been trying to shore up a sagging section of the floor when the house fell down, Stover said.
Stover said OSHA had been “picking on” him and was not concerned about safety.
Stover’s lawyer, Pat Perrino of Augusta, said he was still reviewing the citations. The company has until Aug. 31 to contest the case; otherwise, the citations stand as issued.
“My gut reaction is we’ll probably appeal,” Perrino told The Portland Herald. “OSHA has a habit of picking on the little people all the time and making all these findings, but they’re afraid to go after anyone else.”
Stover told the Bangor Daily News that OSHA’s “system is way broken. They need to fix their system before they try to fix mine.”
OSHA has procedures in place if companies do not pay settled fines.
That process starts with OSHA’s internal debt collector and then escalates to private collection firms. Hard-core holdouts will eventually hear from the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS step can be quite effective, OSHA Area Director Bill Coffin told the Kennebec Journal: “Some people turn over a leaf real quick when they get a letter from Washington.”