EHS Administration, Enforcement and Inspection

Maine Roofer Responsible for $1.6 Million OSHA Fine

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced June 28 that an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruled that Shawn D. Purvis is personally responsible for $1,572,340 in OSHA fines. Purvis, who does business as Purvis Home Improvement Co. Inc., willfully exposed roofing workers to fall hazards at Portland, Old Orchard Beach, and Springvale, Maine, worksites between December 2018 and May 2019, according to the agency.

OSHA cited Purvis and his Maine-based business for 14 willful, 2 repeat, and 4 serious workplace safety violations after a series of inspections.

The agency opened its first inspection on December 13, 2018, after an employee fell more than 21 feet (ft) to his death from a steep-pitched roof in Portland. OSHA determined that Purvis failed to ensure employees wore required fall protection.

Five days later, OSHA found similar hazards at Purvis’s worksites in Old Orchard Beach and again in May 2019 in Springvale, where the company exposed employees to falls of up to 15 and 21 ft, respectively. The agency issued citations that included 13 egregious-willful or “instance-by-instance” violations.

OSHA regional administrators and area office directors have the authority to issue instance-by-instance citations for violations of fall protection, lockout/tagout, machine guarding, permit-required confined space, respiratory protection, and trenching standards.

“Falls from heights are one of the leading causes of work-related death in the U.S. and in New England specifically,” Galen Blanton, OSHA’s Boston regional administrator, said in an agency statement. “When employers like Shawn Purvis do not comply with fall protection requirements, they will be cited and fined. An employer previously cited for the same violations will generally face substantially larger fines.”

OSHA’s construction industry fall protection standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1926.501) remains its most frequently cited standard, cited 5,260 times in fiscal year (FY) 2022.

ALJ Carol A. Baumerich found Purvis personally liable for the OSHA penalties. The judge also rejected the employer’s claim that his workers were independent contractors after analyzing the employment relationship between Purvis and his workers and determining they were Purvis’s employees.

Baumerich issued a decision affirming each OSHA citation and Purvis’s liability for the assessed penalties. She concluded that because “the OSH Act places little importance on the organizational nature of an employer, it is appropriate to pierce the corporate veil to achieve the purpose of the OSH Act.”

The Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor in Boston litigated and tried the case for OSHA.

“When employers refuse to comply with the law repeatedly and place their employees’ lives at risk by not ensuring the use of fall protection, the U.S. Department of Labor will hold them accountable, including by imposing individual liability if appropriate,” Boston Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher said in OSHA’s statement. “If, like Shawn Purvis, a cited employer does not accept responsibility for its safety violations and fix them, we will use all legal tools available to get them to do so, including going to trial.”

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