A federal judge held a New Jersey employer personally liable for $2 million in accumulated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines.
An administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission granted the Department of Labor’s (DOL) motion for summary judgment against Juan Quevedo-Garcia, owner and principal of BB Frame LLC, following 5 OSHA inspections at 4 Bergen County, New Jersey, worksites beginning in December 2019. Violations found during these inspections led OSHA to propose $2,004,225 in penalties against BB Frame LLC and Quevedo-Garcia individually.
“Among construction industry employers, Juan Quevedo-Garcia and his shell companies have been the most prominent OSHA scofflaws in New Jersey in the past decade,” Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said in an agency statement.
In the 5 inspections of BB Frame, OSHA identified 8 willful, 10 repeat, and 12 serious violations for hazards that included:
- Failure to use fall, head, and eye protection;
- Unsafe use of stepladders;
- Scaffolding, housekeeping, and fire safety deficiencies; and
- Lack of stair rails and forklift training.
Before the December 2019 inspection, Quevedo-Garcia dissolved his previous framing company, Frame Q LLC, after having racked up over $700,000 in unpaid OSHA penalties for similar violations.
Nonetheless, he continued to do business under the Frame Q trade name, according to the agency.
In December 2019, OSHA conducted two inspections of BB Frame LLC, doing business as Frame Q. The first was in response to a complaint at a worksite in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, that resulted in 9 safety violations and a $520,860 penalty. The second, at a Fort Lee, New Jersey, location, resulted in 5 citations and a proposed penalty of $426,785.
In January 2020, as part of the agency’s local emphasis program for fall hazards, OSHA opened an inspection at another Cliffside Park location and issued 5 safety citations with a $405,588 proposed penalty.
OSHA completed 2 additional inspections in February 2020 at a Palisades Park, New Jersey, site. The agency initiated 1 as part of the local emphasis program for fall hazards and issued 3 citations with a proposed penalty of $274,892. The other inspection, initiated in response to a complaint, resulted in 8 violations and a $369,000 proposed penalty.
“Juan Quevedo-Garcia deliberately failed to pay the fines, and displayed a total disregard for the safety of his workers and for the law,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in an agency statement.
“This ruling sends a clear message that business owners who abuse the system to avoid responsibility will be held legally accountable when they fail to uphold their obligation to provide a safe workplace and think they can ignore federal fines.”
OSHA’s construction industry fall protection standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1926.501) is the agency’s most frequently cited standard and was cited 5,295 times in fiscal year (FY) 2021.
Wisconsin contractor cited a second time in 6 months
OSHA cited an Appleton, Wisconsin-based contractor a second time for exposing workers to deadly fall hazards after an agency inspector observed 6 roofers atop a 2-story Algoma duplex on November 2, 2021, some 6 months after the contractor’s previous citations in June 2021.
Apple Roofing Solutions LLC again failed to provide fall protection equipment to workers, according to the agency, or train them on its use and provide a ladder extended at least 3 feet above the landing surface. The agency issued 1 willful, 1 repeat, and 1 serious violation. Proposed penalties total $49,722.
In June 2021, OSHA cited the company for the same hazards, identified during an inspection at a Neenah, Wisconsin, jobsite, and proposed $21,140 in penalties.
According to the agency, the company has neither paid OSHA penalties assessed in June 2021 nor complied with requirements to provide abatement information. OSHA cited the company in 2017 and 2018 for similar hazards at other jobsites.
“Apple Roofing Solutions continues to show a flagrant disregard for the safety and well-being of its workers, and the law. Fall hazards make roofing work among the construction industry’s most dangerous jobs and among OSHA’s most frequently cited hazards,” OSHA’s Appleton Area Director Robert Bonack said in an agency statement.
The agency cited Bureau of Labor Statistics data that found of the 1,008 construction worker deaths in 2020, 351 were falls from elevation.