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Feds Sue to Collect Fines from San Antonio Lath & Plaster Related to Years of OSHA Violations

The U.S. attorney's office in San Antonio, Tex., has filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas against San Antonio Lath & Plaster Inc. to collect $234,450 in delinquent fines assessed by OSHA for workplace safety violations.

The fines are associated with 26 citations issued by OSHA during the course of six inspections at the San Antonio-based company's various job sites in Texas between February 2007 and December 2010.

In 2008, for example, San Antonio Lath & Plaster was cited for violations found at a Sugar Land, Texas, construction site after investigators observed employees working without appropriate fall protection.

The company was cited with one serious, seven repeat and one other-than-serious violation. The serious violation alleges the improper use of extension cord sets. Seven repeat violations were for inadequately built and used scaffolding. The other-than-serious violation alleges inadequate examination of electrical equipment and the use of spliced flexible cords.

“Scaffold platforms were not fully decked, leaving gaps through which employees could fall,” said Chuck Williams, OSHA’s Houston South area office director, at the time the citations were issued. “An access ladder was not provided so that employees could safely access the upper levels of the scaffolding. Guardrails, used to prevent workers from falling off the scaffolding, were missing.”

In an inspection initiated Jan. 24, 2008 at the company's work site in San Antonio, Tex., OSHA issued four serious citations for failure to provide employees with fall protection while working on a rooftop structure, failing to ensure that scaffold planking extended no farther than 12 inches past scaffold supports, failing to ensure that a competent person supervised the scaffold being moved and not implementing a hazard communication program. The company received repeat violations during that investigation include failure to ensure the use of hard hats to protect employees from falling objects, and to provide scaffold platforms with handrails and toe boards. An other-than-serious violation was related to San Antonio Lath & Plaster’s failure to provide OSHA injury and illness logs.

In fact, San Antonio Lath & Plaster has been cited numerous times by OSHA since 1999 for similar violations at construction sites in various cities.

In the cases from 2007 through 2010, the company had 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. When the company failed to respond, the citations became final orders of the commission, and the penalties became due.

“Employers who violate safety and health laws and refuse to pay penalties for those violations will be held accountable,” said James Culp, the department’s regional solicitor in Dallas. “The Labor Department will not hesitate to pursue employers who disregard their responsibilities.”

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