Monday, June 18, 2007

Reddish v. Bowen-Contractors Beware!

I have promised to post about some important home contractor cases in Massachusetts, and the Reddish case was decided in June 2006. In Reddish, the contractor installed a pool and violated a six-foot side lot setback requirement contained in a local zoning by-law. The court held that this was a violation of the Home Improvement Contractor law in Massachusetts that states that contractors must comply with the building laws, and therefore a violation of the Consumer Protection act, as well.

The important point to note about this case is that the contractor relied on the homeowner's statement that the property line was at the location of a fence, when in fact, it was not. The contractor deviated from the plans based on the homeowner's "say so," and was then held accountable for this error and was forced to pay the plaintiff's attorney's fees as a result. Therefore, contractors should beware, and make sure that the property has been properly surveyed, that the plans are accurate, and that they do not deviate from the plans without verifying that there work will not violate any laws.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Residential Building and Landscaping: High Hazard Industries

Another post by Jerry Soloman, OSHA attorney:

Industries are recognized and treated by OSHA as “High Hazard” if their injury rates per 100 workers are higher than the norm. Residential construction and Landscaping are among the industries with the worst injury rates. That is one reason why OSHA has targeted residential building for special emphasis and a greater number of inspections.

Last year OSHA made around 1360 inspections of residential building contractors in about 25 states controlled by federal OSHA. They issued fines totaling over $3.2 Million. The most frequent citations were for fall protection; scaffolds; ladders; head protection; hazard communication and electrical. It is hard for a residential builder to follow all the rules and still make money on a job. But think about thousands or even 10s of thousands of dollars in penalties if OSHA catches up with you.

Even worse than an OSHA inspection and fine, what if someone gets hurt or killed on your jobsite? It happens more than you think it might. Since last October in New England 9 workers have died under conditions that could exist at any home construction site.

Fatal Facts

2 workers on an aluminum pump jack were electrocuted, one fatally, when a long piece of aluminum fascia blew into contact with a power line. In another fascia accident an employee was killed as he was trying to install a cap on a brick fascia when his step ladder tipped sideways and he fell from the roof of a 2-story building. Another employee installing a roof on a private residence fell to his death, and yet another fell and died while cleaning gutters. There were 3 other roofing-related fatalities involving falls including a company owner who fell 12 feet while stepping on to a scaffold without fall protection. It only takes an instant to lose your footing. Roof work is dangerous. Respect that danger and protect employees from falls.

Landscaping presents its own problems. A worker using a self-propelled lawn aerator was killed when he was pinned between the machine and a window-mounted air conditioner. Bobcat-related fatalities are not uncommon. One landscape employee was killed recently when his machine flipped on an incline. The operator was ejected and then the machine rolled on top of him. Most old-school guys will laugh at it, but Bobcat operators are required to wear seatbelts.

Nail Guns

In 2005, 28,600 workers were treated in emergency rooms for nail gun injuries. Over 1700 of them required further hospitalization or treatment. Make sure workers using nail guns are trained in the proper usage and safety features. Don’t by-pass safety features for speed. Manual triggers with nose-contact devices are there for safety purposes. Sequential-trip triggers also make accidental discharge less likely. Protect workers, avoid job losses that happen when someone is injured, and keep your workers comp costs down by using appropriate safety devices on nail guns.

Jerry Solomon
Law Office of Jerrold Solomon