OSHA issues fines for second time over violations at former Dye Works building in Easthampton

Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2015

EASTHAMPTON — For the second time in less than a year, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued fines to Salem contractor James J. Welch & Co. Inc. for violations related to work at the former Dye Works building at 15 Cottage St.

Three other contractors were also cited for more minor violations, according to an OSHA statement released Monday. All violations resulted from a July 11 inspection of the work site, according to the statement.

Arch Street Development of Boston is renovating the former mill building at 15 Cottage St. as part of an $18 million project to create 50 units of affordable rental housing.

James J. Welch & Co., general contractor for the project, faces $93,170 in fines related to fall hazards. The violations include having no protection for workers on the roof, unguarded roof holes, insufficient anchoring for fall protection, and employees untrained to recognize fall hazards.

“When it comes down to it, falls are the leading cause of death in construction work,” OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said in an interview Monday.

The costliest violation for the contractor is a $53,900 fine for not having protection for roof workers working more than 40 feet above the ground, which was listed as a “willful” violation, according to OSHA documents.

“‘Willful’ is the most severe (classification) and it is used only when OSHA determines the employer knew what was required and chose to ignore that requirement,” Fitzgerald said.

Representatives for James J. Welch & Co. did not return multiple requests for comment Monday.

The three other contractors cited are Atlantis Comfort Systems Corp. of Smithfield, Rhode Island, All Custom Masonry of Worcester, and J&R Glass Service of Fitchburg.

Atlantis faces $7,000 in fines for failure to ensure the use of fall protection and failure to document fall protection training. All Custom Masonry faces $5,600 in fines for failure to provide fall protection for employees working on a scaffold and for using a scaffold that was not fully planked. J & R Glass Service faces a $4,900 fine for not protecting an employee from possible falls through a wall opening.

Violations for those three companies were classified as “serious,” meaning that there is a substantial probability death or physical harm could result from the hazard.

Atlantis and J & R did not return calls for comment Monday.

All Custom Masonry owner Jean Bouthiller told the Gazette he planned to contest the fine against his company.

Bouthiller said he has not had a chance to review all the evidence and has not yet received his fine in the mail, but he said he believes there was a gate open in the scaffolding so that building materials could be delivered to the work site.

“This is not a $100 speeding ticket — we’re talking about thousands of dollars that gets levied on little contractors who can barely stay afloat,” Bouthiller said. “OSHA has too much power.”

Each contractor has 15 business days from the date of receiving the citations to pay the fines, meet with an OSHA representative or contest the fines, according to the OSHA statement.

In July, OSHA cited Connecticut-based abrasive blasting contractor Maher Industries, also known as A Fast Blast, for lead, silica and respirator violations at the same work site, levying $47,600 in fines, the statement said. That company is still contesting the citations and fines.

At the same time, James J. Welch & Co. was fined $21,022 for 14 violations at the site. The company negotiated to pay $8,874 in fines to OSHA. Those violations resulted from an April 1 inspection, which found the company had failed provide protective clothing, failed to monitor exposure levels of hazardous materials and failed to train workers to use protective clothing effectively.

Also announced in July were violations by two other subcontractors. E. F. Fogarty Construction in Middleton accepted a $1,400 fine as part of an informal settlement with OSHA for failure to protect employees from falling from a low-slope roof during a June 9 inspection. Patriots Environmental Corp. of Oxford is contesting $12,600 in fines for three violations during a March 3 inspection for failure to use guardrails and harnesses and for misusing a ladder.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.


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