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A New Jersey real estate developer and two contractors are facing a total of $518,037 in fines after allegedly and willfully exposing workers to dangerously energized power lines at a worksite in Paterson, New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Labor said Tuesday.
On April 15, the local power utility alerted the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration about workers constructing a five-story apartment building too close to nearby power lines. After arriving at the site, OSHA inspectors found employees at risk of electrocution as they worked from a metal scaffold erected within five feet of high-voltage power lines.
OSHA informed the project’s developer, Litana Development Inc. of Wayne and two subcontractors, Prata Construction LLC of Denville, a carpentry contractor, and Elite Brothers Construction LLC of Paterson, a stucco contractor, of the dangers and told them work must not continue. The agency subsequently posted an Imminent Danger Notice in English and Spanish to warn workers at the site about the extreme danger.
On June 23, the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor secured a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark to enforce OSHA’s Imminent Danger Notice. Attorneys for the department and Litana negotiated a consent injunction, entered on July 5, to resume work as long as workers remained 11 feet from the power lines.
Less than a month later, OSHA found that work had once again been performed dangerously close to the power lines. On Aug. 2, the court entered a more restrictive Modified Consent Injunction that provided for third-party monitoring and physical barriers to ensure that workers would be kept safe.
OSHA said that “despite repeatedly being told of the danger involved with this construction project, the companies ignored warnings and even a court order.”
As a result, Litana Development is facing a $425,081 fine and Prata Construction and Elite Brothers Construction are both facing $41,478 fines. The companies have 15 days to contest.