OSHA issues 30 citations involving roof work in Berks

Reading Eagle

by Ford Turner

Sunday October 5, 2014 12:01 AM

Safety-related penalties of more than $100,000 have been assessed by the federal government against roofing contractors doing work in Berks County since the May 22 hailstorm.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 30 citations to more than 20 entities and individuals, including local companies and others from at least five states. Copies of the citations, whose associated penalties range from $1,700 to $8,400, were obtained by the Reading Eagle through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Appeals have been initiated in at least some of the cases.

Christian D. Malesic, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Berks County, said the OSHA inspections and citations were to be expected after a major damage-producing event."

OSHA normally comes to town when there is a huge amount of work," Malesic said.

Thousands of roofs in Wyomissing, West Reading, Reading, Kenhorst, Spring Township and nearby areas were damaged in the storm. A local insurance industry manager said several regional carriers have each paid out at least $15 million in claims.

Roofing contractors became active in damaged neighborhoods soon after the storm. In June, OSHA said it had received complaints that companies were allowing employees to work on roofs without adequate protection against falls.

Many of the citations specifically mention that OSHA inspectors found a lack of proper fall protection, including safety harnesses for workers on roofs, at job sites. Other infractions include improper use of ladders, a lack of proper training in fall safety protection and a safety monitor failing to watch ongoing work."

We recognized very early that we had all these contractors there," said Kevin Kilp, OSHA's Harrisburg-based area director. "Obviously there is a tremendous amount of activity going on in this area because of this hailstorm."

Malesic said he viewed OSHA's role of protecting workers as praiseworthy. On the other hand, he said, OSHA's approach of responding to every complaint made the agency susceptible to bogus complaints called in by "unscrupulous" out-of-town contractors.

Such contractors, he said, call in complaints about job sites being run by reputable local contractors even if no hazard is observed.

"The intent is to keep your competition busy with OSHA," Malesic said.

Bachman's Roofing, Building & Remodeling Inc. in Wernersville, named on two citations, is appealing both of them, according to General Manager Carl Rost. He described them as "very minor."

Out-of-town companies making calls about local companies was a common occurrence in June and July, Rost said.

Rich Stankiewicz, a partner at Stankiewicz & Sons of Reading, said his company was contesting citations it received. He said the company had been in business for 60 years and that this was its first encounter with OSHA.

Kilp said that while OSHA was not at liberty to discuss the source of complaints it received, most of them turned out to be valid.

"We have found hazards in most of the work sites that were the subject of complaints," he said.

At most of the other sites, he said, no hazards were found because the job sites were no longer active.

Penalties associated with citations can be reduced through meetings and negotiations with OSHA. Kilp said he hoped most, if not all, of the companies cited in Berks would meet with the agency.

A key question, he said, was, "Is the company trying to improve their safety program and protect employees?"

More roof work-related cases are being pursued in Berks.

Kilp said, "We are still very busy there."

Contact Ford Turner: 610-371-5037 or