An Anchorage building contractor has withdrawn its contest of nearly $300,000 in fines proposed by Alaska’s state-run safety and health program, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The department cited the contractor for hazards leading to the death of an employee. According to the state, the employer willfully exposed the victim to unsafe job conditions and unlawfully claimed the employee as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee.
Alaska labor commissioner Heidi Drygas said she hopes the sizable fine sends a clear message to other employees. When employers expose employees to potentially fatal hazards and misclassify them, she says the department will seek the strongest possible penalties.
On September 30, 2016, the victim and a coworker were demolishing wooden stairs and a walkway attached to a retaining wall at an Anchorage residence. Toward the end of demolition, the sole remaining structural support was moved. This caused a 29-foot-section of the cinderblock wall to collapse on the employee. The state maintains that the incident would not have occurred if the contractor had taken basic safety precautions. Originally, the employer sought to contest the citations, but subsequently withdrew his contest.
In addition to the $280,000 in safety-related fines, the contractor will also pay the state $12,000 for failing to insure his employees for workers’ compensation liabilities.