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By Jeff Wing
April 26, 2016
In January, Cal/OSHA issued citations to longtime Santa Barbara area landlord and property owner Dario Pini of DP Investments, when the landlord was found to have violated a stop-work order at one of his construction sites. The citations were based on violations discovered at The Fiesta Inn and Suites renovation project at 1816 State Street. On October 12 Cal/OSHA inspectors visiting that site notified the employer and property owner, Mr. Pini, that an inspection had revealed improperly installed scaffolding on one of the buildings. The non-compliant scaffolding constituted a hazard that put the workers at risk.
At that time the scaffold in question was missing a required ladder for safe access, a required guardrail to prevent falls, and the required base plates to brace the scaffolding where it meets the ground. The Cal/OSHA inspectors issued a stop order to prevent site workers from using the scaffolding until such time as the necessary modifications could be effected. Mr. Pini was informed that a stop order was being issued, such that use of the scaffolding was forbidden until the violations were corrected, and that the stop order could only be removed by Cal/OSHA, as required by law.
In a separate violation, DP Investments was also cited April 6 for failing to report an earlier workplace injury. Cal/OSHA were made aware that an unreported injury had occurred at the same State Street job site in late August 2015. On that date a carpenter had fallen 11.5 feet onto a cement walkway when the removal of a window grate bolt caused the window grating to swing open unexpectedly. The law requires workplace injuries be reported immediately.
On October 12, Cal/OSHA's Van Nuys office initiated a second inspection of the 1816 State Street worksite after receiving a complaint. When Cal/OSHA revisited the work site for a follow-up inspection on October 23, they discovered the brightly colored stop-work order notice had been removed from the scaffolding without authorization and workers were using the non-compliant scaffolding without any of the legally required safety modifications having been made.
In the event, Cal/OSHA cited DP Investments for 12 workplace safety violations. In particular, the removal of the stop work order reached the level of what is called a Willful Serious violation, and was accompanied by a proposed penalty of $54,000. In addition, two citations characterized as Serious were issued when it was discovered that rooftop workers at the site were exposed to unmitigated falls from as high as 18 feet without required personal fall protection equipment, and that the scaffold at the site was not assembled under the direction of a qualified supervisor. These citations carry penalties of $5,400 each. DP Investment was further penalized for failing to provide workers with workplace safety procedure info and insufficient training for supervisory employees.
While these stories almost seem untrue, the truth remains that worker’s lives literally “hang” in the balance on job sites. Owners who consider workplace safety compliance an inconvenience gamble with worker’s lives, or at the least (in the case of workplace injury), their livelihoods. As we near OSHA’s Stand Down for Safety month, we feel that the overarching goal is to make workplace safety paramount. Yes, OSHA penalty fines are increasing substantially, but with or without that incentive, one would hope that the impulse to provide a safe working environment would be incentive enough for an owner to do the right thing and see to the state mandated workplace safety rules.
For more information on OSHA’s Stand Down for Safety click here.
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