Roofing Company Superintendent Faces OSHA Obstruction Charges

April 4, 2008
A superintendent employed at an Illinois roofing company faces federal criminal charges for allegedly obstructing OSHA's investigation of an incident involving the death of employee Walter “Boe” Whipple, who fell 16 feet through a skylight in Oct. 2007.

Media reports cited a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of Illinois in Rock Island against company superintendent Stephen Vyncke. The allegations include:

  • Altering a work site by placing fall protection equipment on the roof after Whipple's fall.
  • Falsely telling an OSHA investigator the fall protection equipment was on the roof prior to Whipple's fall.
  • Instructing a witness he knew would be interviewed by investigators not to reveal the lack of fall protection on the roof prior to the fatal incident.
  • Knowingly making false or fictitious statements to an OSHA compliance officer.

“[OSHA] applauds the U.S. Attorney’s decision to prosecute Vyncke because it sends a strong message that obstructing an OSHA investigation is a serious offense that will not be tolerated,” said OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr.

OSHA cited Winter's Architectural Roofing for safety and health violations that contributed to the employee's death with proposed fines totaling $224,000. Several of the eight willful violations include:

  • Failure to provide fall protection in hoisting areas and on low-sloped roofs;
  • Failure to cover skylight openings to prevent falls; and
  • Failure to train employees about fall hazards.

OccupationalHazards.com contacted Winter's Architectural Roofing, but the company gave no comment when asked if Vyncke was still employed. It also did not comment on OSHA's citations.

Prior to this investigation, OSHA inspected Winter’s Architectural Roofing in 2002 and issued a serious citation for failing to provide fall protection during roofing operations. The company has been in business since 1937.

Winter’s Architectural Roofing has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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