When OSHA fines are handed down, they don’t usually target individuals.
However, when you’re one of the biggest offenders of the past decade, all bets are off.
Now, after years of violations, one New Jersey business owner is being held directly responsible.
Recently, a federal administrative law judge has ruled this business owner is personally liable for $2 million in OSHA fines for his flagrant violations of workplace safety laws.
This was a summary judgment against the individual, a Palisades Park contractor and owner of a construction LLC, following five OSHA inspections at four of his worksites in Bergen County, NJ.
The $2 million in OSHA fines were issued against the LLC and the man individually.
How a Business Owner Abused the System
Earlier in 2019, the business owner dissolved his previous framing company after amassing more than $700,000 in unpaid OSHA fines for similar prior violations. However, he still continued to do business under the company trade name.
OSHA inspected that company in December 2019 following a complaint at his Cliffside Park worksite, resulting in nine safety citations and $520,860 in OSHA fines.
The second inspection, conducted the same month at a Fort Lee location, resulted in five citations and a proposed penalty of $426,785.
The following month, as part of OSHA’s local emphasis program for fall hazards, the agency opened another inspection at a different Cliffside Park location and issued five safety citations with a $405,588 proposed penalty.
Two additional inspections were completed the next month, February 2020, at a Palisades Park site.
One was initiated as another inspection for the local emphasis program for fall hazards, and OSHA issued three citations with a proposed penalty of $274,892.
The other inspection was in a response to a complaint, resulting in eight violations and a $369,000 proposed penalty.
Within three months, the business owner’s worksites underwent five OSHA inspections.
OSHA identified eight willful, ten repeat, and 12 serious violations for hazards, including:
- Failure to use fall, head, and eye protection
- Unsafe use of stepladders
- Scaffolding, housekeeping, and fire safety deficiencies
- Lack of stair rails
- Lack of forklift training
Court Rules Personal Liability for $2 Million in OSHA Fines
The business owner contested the citations, and then the department filed complaints with the commission on Aug. 27, 2020.
The judge granted a summary judgment in a decision on Feb. 25, 2022, which held the individual personally liable for the citations and the more than $2 million in OSHA fines.
The judge’s decision found the individual “dominated [the company] and abused its corporate form to circumvent the OSH Act.”
Therefore, holding the individual “personally liable for the company’s violations and resulting OSHA fines is necessary to prevent the continued or renewed circumvention of the OSH Act and avoidance of the Act’s expressed legislative purpose and policy.”
“Among construction industry employers, [the individual] and his shell companies have been the most prominent OSHA scofflaws in New Jersey in the past decade,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda.
She continued, saying, “The administrative law judge’s decision stops this employer from ignoring safety in the future and sets a critical precedent that the U.S. Department of Labor will use every enforcement and legal tool available against serial violators who attempt to evade federal safety laws with corporate shell games.”
“[The individual] deliberately failed to pay the fines, and displayed a total disregard for the safety of his workers and for the law,” added Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.
“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,” Mr. Parker said.
Avoid OSHA Fines and Liability by Staying OSHA Compliant
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.
Services such as medical surveillance can help employers detect and prevent health and safety issues within their worksite before OSHA shows up.
About Worksite Medical
In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.
Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.
We conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.
With Worksite Medical, a mobile medical testing unit — we can bring all the resources of a lab to you. Our certified lab technicians can perform both qualitative and quantitative respirator tests to ensure a perfect fit.
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Give us a call at 1-844-622-8633, or complete the form below to schedule an on-site visit or to get your free quote!