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$249K in Safety Fines Upheld for NY Firm

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

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More than three years after the original inspection, a judge upheld nearly $250,000 in fines for a New York contractor accused of putting workers in danger of serious falls at a midtown Manhattan hotel jobsite.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Flintlock Construction Services LLC in September 2013 after a six-day inspection in March of that year revealed fall hazards that merited four “willful” and three “serious” citations.

Scaffolding at worksite
© iStock.com / ictor

According to the OSHA citation, scaffolding on the site was unsafe for a number of reasons. (Actual worksite not pictured.)

Flintlock appealed to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent judicial body that handles contested OSHA rulings; on May 20, Judge Covette Rooney ruled in favor of the federal agency. The ruling was announced publicly July 6.

Unsafe Scaffolding

Flintlock was the general contractor on the project, at 325 West 33rd Street in Manhattan, when the inspections, brought on by complaints to OSHA, took place. According to the OSHA citation, scaffolding on the site was unsafe for a number of reasons: There was no safe access, personal fall arrest systems were not in use, the scaffolds were not fully planked, and the scaffolds weren’t properly secured.

Judge Covette Rooney

On May 20, Judge Covette Rooney ruled in favor of OSHA in the case against Flintlock.

Three subcontractors were also cited in the case—V&P Altitude Corp., for $13,200, SMK Associates, for $7,600, and Marpeth Steel Fabricators, for $2,000. Flintlock faced the biggest fines because Flintlock, as the general contractor, had the power to shut down the worksite and make sure the hazards were corrected.

“The sizable fines proposed reflect both the severity of these hazards and that Flintlock was aware of, and failed to correct, the hazards," OSHA’s area director, Kay Gee, said at the time.

Failure to Act

According to the OSHRC ruling, Flintlock subcontracted a safety manager from Site Safety to manage onsite safety issues. Evidence in the case showed that the Site Safety manager knew and communicated the problems with the scaffolding, and Flintlock failed to act on his communication.

DOL logo
U.S. Department of Labor

At the time of the original citation in 2013, OSHA, part of the Department of Labor, placed Flintlock in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Testimony in the case indicated that Flintlock representatives acknowledged issues with the scaffolding when the OSHA inspection took place, but noted that “the job had to be finished in two or three weeks.”

Judge Rooney, in her ruling, noted that because Flintlock was the general contractor, “it is reasonable to expect Flintlock to prevent, detect, or order abatement of hazardous conditions.”

History of Violations

At the time of the original citation in 2013, OSHA placed Flintlock in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which involves follow-up inspections. In the years since the original citation at the 33rd Street site, Flintlock has faced eight more violations.

In May 2013, the company reached an informal settlement with OSHA over scaffolding issues. Weeks later, Flintlock faced three more violations related to scaffolding, fall protection and “housekeeping,” and came to an informal agreement to pay a total of $5,400.

In February 2015, in an inspection brought on by another complaint, Flintlock was cited for four violations, related to alleged fire protection and fall protection. Those violations come to a total proposed fine of $21,560; the violations are being contested.

In April 2015, a worker on a Flintlock site in Manhattan was killed when a crane arm malfunctioned and fell on him.

'Dominant Nonunion Contractor'

Founded by brothers Andrew and Stephen Weiss, Flintlock Construction has been called “New York’s dominant nonunion contractor.” On its website, the firm says: “The combination of innovative open shop construction capabilities and leveraging highly skilled tradesmen not subject to collective bargaining agreements, enables Flintlock to complete projects at 20 to 30 percent lower cost than closed shop construction companies, while maintaining the highest standards of quality and safety.”

Elsewhere on its site, Flintlock notes, “We self-perform safety work at our sites, rather than sub-contracting out this important task (in contrast to other contractors in New York).”

The company has reportedly filed for discretionary review with the OSHRC over this latest ruling. A request for comment on the ruling was not immediately returned.


Tagged categories: Construction; Contractors; Enforcement; Fall protection; OSHA; Scaffolding; Violations

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