The U.S. Department of Labor has issued citations to three New Jersey contractors who willfully exposed employees to potentially lethal dangers by allowing them to work near energized power lines at a Paterson worksite.
On April 15, 2022, the local power utility alerted the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration about workers constructing a five-story apartment building too close to nearby power lines. After arriving at the site, OSHA inspectors found employees at risk of electrocution as they worked from a metal scaffold erected within five feet of high-voltage power lines.
OSHA informed the project's developer, Litana Development Inc. of Wayne and two subcontractors, Prata Construction LLC of Denville – a carpentry contractor – and Elite Brothers Construction LLC of Paterson – a stucco contractor – of the dangers and told them work must not continue. The agency subsequently posted an Imminent Danger Notice in English and Spanish to warn workers at the site about the extreme danger.
On June 23, 2022, the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor secured a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark to enforce OSHA's Imminent Danger Notice. Attorneys for the department and Litana negotiated a consent injunction, entered on July 5, 2022, to resume work as long as workers remained 11 feet away from the power lines.
On July 15, 2022, OSHA found that work had once again been performed dangerously close to the power lines. On August 2, 2022, the court entered a more restrictive Modified Consent Injunction which provided for third-party monitoring and physical barriers to ensure that workers would be kept safe.
"Litana Development and its subcontractors willfully exposed workers to potentially deadly electrocution hazards by making them work too close to energized power lines," said OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson in New York. "Despite repeatedly being told of the danger involved with this construction project, the companies ignored warnings and even a court order."
OSHA issued citations and penalties as follows:
Litana Development Inc.
Prata Construction LLC
One willful, two serious
Elite Brothers Construction LLC
One willful, three serious
"The U.S. Department of Labor will use all available enforcement tools to protect workers' safety, and to ensure violations are remedied to prevent tragedies," said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 email@example.com have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
Blog: Workers ' Compensation
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Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" Thomson-Reuters