Welcome! Login | Register
 

Happy Thanksgiving Rhode Island—This holiday season, be sure to give love,…

25 Ways to Give in RI this Holiday Season—The holidays are a time of giving -…

Carol Anne Costa: Giving Thanks—Like so many traditions, the day Americans set…

Major Retailers’ Thanksgiving Day Shopping Hours—Black Friday is on the horizon and you…

Newport Manners & Etiquette: Thanksgiving & More—Last minute Thanksgiving etiquette questions you may also…

Pam Gencarella: Surprised, Bewildered, Shocked, Disappointed—Were you feeling any of these when CVS…

URI vs. #11/12 Kansas, Game Preview—UR travels to Kansas to take on the…

Obama Pardons National Turkeys—GoLocal News Team

The Cellar: Thanksgiving Add-Ons—Thanksgiving is upon us and if you’re into…

10 Places in RI to Celebrate on Thanksgiving Eve—Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it is time to…

 
 

The Most Dangerous Workplaces in RI

Thursday, November 14, 2013

 

Rhode Island businesses cited for the most health and safety violations paid nearly half a million dollars in total penalties over the past year and include a Global Fortune 500 company and one of the most prominent local businesses, according to federal OSHA records reviewed by GoLocalProv.

Overall, 171 companies were cited for at least one health or safety violation between November 1, 2012 and the first of this month by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Those ranking in the top 25 were hit with at least four initial violations—the bulk of them classified as serious, meaning that the infractions could have led to major injuries or illnesses.

Click here to see the list of the 25 most dangerous workplaces.

Top offenders had more than 200 violations

In all, among the top 25, there were more than 206 violations, with 166 of them classified as serious. Only a few were repeat offenses or were willful—meaning a business intentionally ignored regulations.

A variety of circumstances can land a business in hot water with OSHA, according to James Celenza, the director of the Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Health and Safety, a nonprofit advocate. Sometimes, startups that are new to the industry may not be familiar with the applicable rules. Others simply may not have been aware of a particular regulation. Then there are those that know them but attempt to skirt them in an effort to cut costs, according to Celenza.

Violations encompass a wide range of workplace hazards—from inadequate fall protection and ladders for construction workers to failure to meet standards governing flammable liquids, hazardous waste, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection, the data shows. Violations that are non-serious can involve failure to maintain proper paperwork, which itself may not threaten employee safety but could be indication of an effort to cover up more serious issues, workplace safety advocates said.

An OSHA inspection which turns up violations results in a penalty and a requirement that the problem be corrected. Penalties can range from a maximum of $1,000 for non-serious violations to a maximum of $70,000 for willful infractions, which considered the most serious ones, Celenza said. First-time serious violations can result in as much as a $7,000 fine, while repeat offenses are usually multiple of the first penalty, according to Ted Fitzgerald, an OSHA spokesman.

Penalties take into account the type of violation, the gravity of the hazard, number of employees, and prior record, Fitzgerald said.

Top offenders include water giant and prominent plumber

The top 25 most dangerous workplaces—determined on the basis of their OSHA violations—are concentrated in just a few sectors. About a third of them are construction contractors. Another third are manufacturers. A few are involved in wastewater treatment while the rest are an eclectic mix that includes a frozen seafood processor, a nursing home provider, a Bristol-based boat builder, and a car washing service.

Notably, the list includes the Cranston office of Veolia Water North America Operating Services, a division of Veolia Water, a century-and-a-half-old French water and wastewater management company that provides services to more than a hundred million customers worldwide and had revenues of $47 billion in 2011, according to Fortune.

In Rhode Island, the company was cited for 11 violations, of which two were serious, resulting in a total initial fine of $12,750.

A notable local name on the list is Gem Plumbing and Heating, Inc., which had 4 violations—two of them serious—and an initial penalty of $15,000.

Do unions make companies safer?

Perhaps the most striking fact about the list is the low number of businesses with unionized workforces. Out of the top 25, just two were unionized.

Michael Sabitoni, the president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, argues that unions—particularly in the construction industry—make the workplace safer because of their extensive training and apprenticeship programs.

He provided OSHA data on workplace fatalities in New England to highlight the disparity between union and non-union businesses. Between 1998 and 2005, there were 354 fatalities among those on the non-union side. As for businesses with unions, there were just 77 on-the-job deaths, according to the data.

“The numbers were pretty astounding,” Sabitoni said.

The disparity is even more dramatic in Rhode Island—a difference of 26 to 1, for non-union versus union businesses.

And, union labor typically does the most complex and dangerous jobs—the highways, bridges, tunnels, sewers, and airport, according to Sabitoni. “Look at the numbers,” he said. “If anything they should be the other way around because we do the most difficult tasks.”

Another advantage of unions: protection against retaliation for workers who file complaints over workplace health and safety issues, according to Celenza.

But not all are convinced that unions always make a difference. In the manufacturing sector, for example, owners are so committed to safe working conditions that unionization does not really make a difference, said Bill McCourt, the executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association.

Companies promise to fix problems

The few companies that could be reached for comment yesterday expressed a willingness to amend their ways and work with OSHA. An official at Monarch Metal Finishing Co., Inc. said that all 19 OSHA violations had been addressed, which official records confirm. The company is now on a payment plan for what was initially $36,540 in fines but has now been reduced to $14,805.

Another business that racked up numerous violations is Rosco Manufacturing, a Newport-based firm that builds water and sewer lines and related structures. Bob Humphreys, the environmental, health, and safety manager, said the company had been given additional time to address 18 infractions, most dating back to May.

“We’ve been working very closely with OSHA to make sure we have a safe and healthy environment for our employees,” Humphreys said. “OSHA came in and did their job and they’re helping us a great deal.”

Humphreys said the violations had occurred because the company is a startup. (He also noted that most of the health and safety issues were discovered in May before he assumed his current position, which was three months ago.)

Many business advocates skeptical of OSHA

John Marcantonio, the executive director of the Rhode Island Builders Association said his organization is committed to safety.

“As an Association we promote safety and education on best practices to the members and industry. Although I was glad to see that none of the violators on your list are current RIBA members, safety should always be a top priority for any firm. At RIBA, our goal is to help prevent accidents and we work with OSHA and other private safety training firms to accomplish that,” Marcantonio said in an e-mail.

But, he added, many RIBA members, despite their commitment to safety, find it difficult to work with OSHA.

“Unfortunately many firms find it hard to deal with OSHA and feel the agency is more about enforcement and fines than it is about education and training. This is an area for improvement,” Marcantonio said.

His counterpart at the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association agreed.

“OSHA is not viewed as a federal agency that is … friendly or helpful or pro-business,” McCourt said.

He said local manufacturers are “honestly and sincerely trying to do the right thing,” when it comes to workplace safety. “What they would like to see from OSHA is someone who will come in and work with them,” McCourt said. Instead, many of the business owners he knows perceive OSHA as a revenue-generating agency for the federal government that is committed to finding violations, no matter how trivial.

As an example, McCourt said one company he is familiar with was cited and penalized for OSHA after an inspection found a box of electrical wiring with gloves that were not electricity-safe. The company had explained to OSHA that it did not do the wiring work in its facilities—it didn’t even employ a licensed electrician. Instead, the work was subcontracted out to another firm. Nonetheless, OSHA issued a five-figure fine for the infraction.

“The old adage, ‘We’re from the government and we’re ready to help’ may not apply in this instance,” said McCourt, who declined to go into further details about specifics of the case.

But OSHA’s defenders insist the agency is more than willing to help businesses comply with its regulations. Celenza noted that OSHA funds a state program that offers free health and safety inspections that businesses can request. The evaluations help businesses identify problems before a formal inspection, which can result in serious penalties. While the program does not provide funding to help businesses comply, Celenza said the evaluations, which would normally cost thousands if done by a private firm, are offered for free.

In addition to that program, Fitzgerald pointed to various online e-tools that workers and employers can use to educate themselves about OSHA standards. And, he said local OSHA offices employ compliance assistance specialists who reach out to local business groups.

“I think the underlying message is [we] want safer workplaces,” Fitzgerald said.

Stephen Beale can be reached at sbeale@golocalprov.com. Follow him on Twitter @bealenews

 

Related Slideshow: Top 25 Most Dangerous Workplaces in Rhode Island

Prev Next

#25

Microfibres, Inc.

Location: Pawtucket

Business Type: Broadwoven Fabric Mills

Number of Initial Violations: 5

Number of Serious Violations: 2

Areas of Violation: Industrial trucks, personnal protection, respiratory protection, hazard communication

Initial Penalty: $6,800

Case Status: Closed

Prev Next

#24

K & J Construction, Inc.

Location: Cranston

Business Type: Residential Remodelers

Number of Initial Violations: 5

Number of Serious Violations: 4

Areas of Violation: General requirements, training

Initial Penalty: $8,400

Case Status: Payment Plan

Prev Next

#23

Manchester Tree And Lanscaping Service, Inc.

Location: Middletown

Business Type: Landscaping Services

Number of Initial Violations: 5

Number of Serious Violations: 3

Areas of Violation: Work platforms, head protection, foot protection

Initial Penalty: $8,400

Case Status: Closed

Prev Next

#22

Colonial Mills, Inc

Location: Pawtucket

Business Type: Carpet and Rug Mills

Number of Initial Violations: 4

Number of Serious Violations: 2

Areas of Violation: Machine requirements, hazard communication

Initial Penalty: $8,470

Case Status: Payment Plan

Prev Next

#21

Green Tech Assets, LLC

Location: Cumberland

Business Type: Non-hazardous Waste Treatment and Disposal

Number of Initial Violations: 7

Number of Serious Violations: 7

Areas of Violation: Guarding floor, industrial trucks, wiring

Initial Penalty: $8,800

Case Status: Closed

Prev Next

#20

Nursing Home Services Inc.

Location: Riverside

Business Type: Commercial Laundry, Drycleaning, and Pressing Machine Manufacturing

Number of Initial Violations: 9

Number of Serious Violations: 9

Areas of Violation: Exit routes, bloodborne pathogens, hazard communication, eye and face protection, medical services and first aid

Initial Penalty: $9,200

Case Status: On payment plan

Prev Next

#19

Grinnell Cabinet Makers, Inc.

Location: Cranston

Business Type: Millwork

Number of Initial Violations: 5

Number of Serious Violations: 3

Areas of Violation: Tools and equipment, wiring design, hazard communication, industrial trucks

Initial Penalty: $9,800

Case Status: Closed

Prev Next

#18

Albaco Realty

Location: Cranston

Business Type: Industrial Building Construction

Number of Initial Violations: 9

Number of Serious Violations: 8

Areas of Violation: Scaffolding, ladders, training

Initial Penalty: $10,400

Case Status: Closed

Prev Next

#17

Mouldcam

Location: Bristol

Business Type: Composite Digital Fabrication

Number of Initial Violations: 10

Number of Serious Violations: 9

Areas of Violation: Scaffolding, medical services and first aid, respiratory protection, wiring design, hazard communication

Initial Penalty: $10,800

Case Status: Abatement pending, on payment plan

Prev Next

#16

Veolia Water North America Operating Services, LLC

Location: Cranston

Business Type: Non-hazardous Waste Treatment and Disposal

Number of Initial Violations: 11

Number of Serious Violations: 2

Areas of Violation: Respiratory protection, medical services and first aid, machine requirements, wiring design, exit routes, occupational noise exposure, hazardous waste operations, control of hazardous energy

Initial Penalty: $12,750

Case Status: Closed

Prev Next

#15

Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc.

Location: Bristol

Business Type: Fresh and Frozen Seafood Processing

Number of Initial Violations: 5

Number of Serious Violations: 3

Areas of Violation: Control of hazardous energy, hazard communication

Initial Penalty: $12,870

Case Status: Closed

Prev Next

#14

Barlo Signs

Location: Warwick

Business Type: Sign Manufacturing

Number of Initial Violations: 6

Number of Serious Violations: 1

Areas of Violation: Wiring design, fall protection, training

Initial Penalty: $14,630

Case Status: On payment plan
 

Prev Next

#13

Kindred Healthcare DBA Chestnut Terrace Nursing And Rehabilitation Center

Location: East Providence

Business Type: Nursing Care Facilities

Number of Initial Violations: 6

Number of Serious Violations: 6

Areas of Violation: Eye and face protection, hazardous energy, training, personnel protection

Initial Penalty: $14,854

Case Status: Abatement pending

Prev Next

#12

Gem Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

Location: Providence

Business Type: Plumbing, Heating, and Air-Conditioning Contractors

Number of Initial Violations: 4

Number of Serious Violations: 2

Areas of Violation: Training, asbestos

Initial Penalty: $15,000

Case Status: Closed

Prev Next

#11

Richard Mayo, Sr.

Location: Westerly

Business Type: Roofing Contractors

Number of Initial Violations: 11

Number of Serious Violations: 11

Areas of Violation: Fall protection, training, and ladders

Initial Penalty: $16,000

Case Status: Abatement and payment pending

Prev Next

#10

New Providence Properties, LLC

Location: Providence

Business Type: Residential Remodelers

Number of Initial Violations: 11

Number of Serious Violations: 11

Areas of Violation: Fall protection, ladders, asbestos

Initial Penalty: $16,920

Case Status: Abatement and payment pending

Prev Next

#9

Lincoln Construction

Location: Portsmouth

Business Type: Roofing Contractors

Number of Initial Violations: 7

Number of Serious Violations: 6

Areas of Violation: Ladders, training requirements, fall protection

Initial Penalty: $17,920

Case Status: Abatement and payment pending

Prev Next

#8

H & R Builders and Renovation, LLC

Location: Providence

Business Type: Residential Remodelers

Number of Initial Violations: 7

Number of Serious Violations: 7

Areas of Violation: Wiring, fall protection, training

Initial Penalty: $18,000

Case Status: Abatement and payment pending

Prev Next

#7

Hk&S Construction Holding Corp.

Location: Newport

Business Type: Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction

Number of Initial Violations: 5

Number of Serious Violations: 5

Areas of Violation: Working over or near water, rigging equipment, protective systems

Initial Penalty: $19,530

Case Status: Some violations being contested

Prev Next

#6

Jose Family Construction

Location: Providence

Business Type: Roofing Contractors

Number of Initial Violations: 6

Number of Serious Violations: 3

Areas of Violation: Fall protection, training, head protection

Initial Penalty: $21,120

Case Status: Abatement pending, penalty in debt collection

Prev Next

#5

Norman Sanville, Jr.

Location: Johnston

Business Type: Miscellaneous Wood Product Manufacturing

Number of Initial Violations: 12

Number of Serious Violations: 12

Areas of Violation: Woodworking machinery requirements, wiring

Initial Penalty: $21,600

Case Status: Abatement pending, in debt collection

Prev Next

#4

Rosco Manufacturing, LLC

Location: Newport

Business Type: Water and Sewer Line and Related Structures Construction

Number of Initial Violations: 18

Number of Serious Violations: 14

Areas of Violation: Protective systems, working over or near water, rigging systems, medical services and first aid, hazard communication, occupational noise exposure, respiratory protection, exit routes, industrial trucks, training, control of hazardous energy

Initial Penalty: $28,700

Case Status: Abatement pending, on payment plan

Prev Next

#3

Quarles Ii, Inc.

Location: Woonsocket

Business Type: Clothing Store

Number of Initial Violations: 9

Number of Serious Violations: 9

Areas of Violation: Exit routes, portable fire extinguishers, industrial trucks

Initial Penalty: $31,500

Case Status: Debt Collection

Prev Next

#2

Monarch Metal Finishing Co., Inc.

Location: Providence

Business Type: Electroplating, Plating, Polishing, Anodizing, and Coloring

Number of Initial Violations: 19

Number of Serious Violations: 18

Areas of Violation: Occupational noise exposure, flammable and combustible liquids, hazardous waste, eye and face protection, respiratory protection, medical services and first aid, portable fire extinguishers, industrial trucks, hazard communication

Initial Penalty: $36,540

Case Status: On payment plan

Prev Next

#1

Stone Systems Of New England LLC

Location: Slatersville

Business Type: Cut Stone and Stone Product Manufacturing

Number of Initial Violations: 10

Number of Serious Violations: 9

Areas of Violation: Respiratory protection, air contaminants, hazard communication, occupational noise exposure

Initial Penalty: $54,000

Case Status: Abatement pending, on payment plan

 
 

Related Articles

 

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.