OSHA fines brought to federal court

Last modified: 5/22/2012 12:00:00 AM
The U.S. Department of Labor is asking a federal appeals court to enforce payment of more than $100,000 in safety violation fines owed by a Concord construction company owner.

Walter Jensen, owner of Summer and Winter Construction LLC also owned Sharon and Walter Construction Inc., until it was dissolved in 2003. Both companies are facing fines for 16 citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the earliest of which was found in 2000.

In a petition filed in first circuit federal appeals court earlier this month, the secretary of labor's office said Jensen owes $101,550 in fines.

Jensen's 'willful and repeat violations include such life-threatening violations as failure to provide adequate roof fall protection, fall protection training and a long-enough ladder for roof-top work,' according to the petition.

The Department of Labor alleges that Jensen's companies 'have effectively thumbed their noses at their OSHA citations and refused to pay their fines.'

The petition lists four different inspections that resulted in OSHA citations against Jensen's companies.

At a work site inspection in Pittsfield in 2000, OSHA cited Jensen's company for failure to provide fall protection to employees working on a roof, according to court documents. That inspection also resulted in a repeat violation for failure to provide fall protection training to employees.

Charlie Russell, Jensen's attorney, said the fines from 2000 are against Sharon and Walter Construction, which went bankrupt in 2003. He also questioned the amount of time it took for the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to issue a decision after the company appealed the citations. The commission made its decision in 2010 to affirm $10,750 in penalties.

In 2006, an OSHA inspection at a Concord work site found four serious violations against Summer and Winter Construction, according to court documents. The company failed to provide head protection, failed to provide adequately supported scaffolding, failed to offer fall protection for employees working on a roof and used a ladder that did not extend above the roof. OSHA proposed a $1,800 fine for the violations.

A third inspection, in Hanover in 2009, resulted in three OSHA violations. The company used improper anchorages for fall protection, did not secure a hoisted load above employees and used a ladder with broken rungs, according to the Department of Labor. OSHA proposed $80,800 in fines.

Also in 2009, OSHA inspected a Summer and Winter Construction site in Manchester and issued citations with proposed penalties of $10,200, according to court documents. Serious violations issued at the site involved lack of eye protection, unsafe use of a circular saw and incorrect use of fall arrest systems. The company also received a citation for a repeat violation of lack of fall protection for employees working on a roof. Proposed penalties for the violations totaled $10,200.

Jensen's company contested both of the 2009 inspections, according to court documents, but the citations were affirmed for a total penalty of $89,000. Jensen has not paid any of the penalties listed in the case, according the Department of Labor's petition.

Russell said yesterday that he plans to file a response to the petition within the next several days.

Jensen did not return a message left yesterday seeking comment. A woman who did not give her name, but said she was calling from the company, declined to comment.

Russell said he believes Summer and Winter Construction is still currently in business.

Jensen was also fined $18,000 in state court in February for unlawful asbestos removal. A Merrimack County Superior Court judge ordered Jensen to pay for removing asbestos from residential homes in 2005 and 2006, and disposing of it at a Rochester landfill without notifying employees of the asbestos content. The ruling stated that Jensen's action was 'in addition to dishonest, potentially injurious to public health.'

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)




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