OSHA has proposed seven safety violations with $136,290 in penalties against Blade Contracting Inc. for failure to protect workers on scaffolds from fall hazards at its Jersey City, N.J., work site. Blade Contracting, however, is contesting OSHA’s violations and insists employees are not exposed to safety hazards.

According to OSHA, the investigation was initiated after a worker with the masonry contractor was injured by falling from a sixth floor balcony while attempting to access a suspension scaffold. OSHA is citing Blade Contracting with one willful violation for the alleged use of makeshift devices on top of scaffolds to increase the level height for working and a failure to protect workers on scaffolds from fall hazards.

“Fall hazards are a leading cause of death in the construction industry, and therefore it is critical that employers provide workers with proper fall protection,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany (N.J.) Area Office. “Employers are responsible for ensuring safe and healthful workplaces, and will be held legally accountable when they fail to do so.”

Blade Contracting contends, however, that the incident was not due to inadequate safety protections at the site.

“OSHA is issuing citations that resulted from employee misconduct,” Joseph W. Rufolo, president of JW Rufolo and Associates, told EHS Today on behalf of Blade Contracting. “Specifically with reference to the fall accident, Blade provided safe ladders for employees to use to climb onto a scaffold. An employee climbed over some guardrails onto a balcony to climb onto the scaffold and then fell. That employee did not use the ladder that was provided and was trying to take a shortcut, which resulted in his accident.”

OSHA also issued Blade Contracting, which is based in Staten Island, N.Y., with two repeat violations involving unprotected workers on scaffolds and a sixth floor balcony. An additional four serious violations were issued for allegedly failing to: install cross bracing on the entire scaffold; ensure personal fall arrest systems were attached to a secure anchorage point and not scaffold guard rails; train workers to recognize and avoid hazards including falls; and ensure proper step ladder use.

“Blade would never intentionally or willfully expose their employees to unsafe conditions and/or OSHA violations. Blade is a very safety-conscious company and provides their employees with a safe work place, employee training, safe equipment and specifically safe work procedures for scaffolds,” said Rufolo.

“Blade believes that they will be vindicated when the hearing is held with regards to the citations,” he concluded.