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Fall protection citations upheld against roofing company

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An administrative law judge of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission upheld citations and a total of $6,013 in penalties assessed against a Georgia roofing company whose employees were not wearing fall protection.

Two compliance safety and health officers from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration observed a group of men working on a hotel roof in Columbus, Georgia, while driving past the worksite in June 2016, according to a commission document. The inspectors initiated an inspection and called the men down off the roof. As they descended in an aerial lift, the men did not have on harnesses and were not tied off to the lift.

The inspectors later discovered the men worked for Atlanta-based Empire Roofing Company of Georgia Inc. and had been applying a sealing material to the roof, exposing them to a 40-foot fall, according to the document. Based on the inspection, OSHA issued a serious citation alleging two violations and an other than serious citation for failing to ensure employees wore a personal fall arrest system while riding in the aerial lift, for not ensuring employees were protected from falls while working on the roof of the building and for failing to train at least one employee on the chemicals used onsite.

Empire appealed the citations and proposed fines, contending that the employees’ failure to tie off was the result of unpreventable employee misconduct and that all employees were appropriately trained. But the judge ruled that the employer did not meet the burden to use the defense, which requires “more rigorous” proof of employee misconduct since supervisor’s have a duty to protect their employees.

“It is not enough that Empire detected violations,” the judge wrote. “Empire must also have taken steps to correct violations through effective enforcement of its rules.”

The commission has adopted the administrative law judge’s decision as a final order as of June 21.

A company spokesperson and attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.