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Feds sue exterior contractor for failing to pay OSHA fines

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//October 29, 2020//

Feds sue exterior contractor for failing to pay OSHA fines

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//October 29, 2020//

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Federal prosecutors are suing a Bloomer contractor for failing to pay fines as part of a settlement meant to resolve a series of safety violations the firm committed on a Wausau-area jobsite in 2015.

A complaint in federal court seeks to compel Affordable Exteriors to pay nearly $41,000 in fines and interest after the company failed to pay penalties imposed in a previous settlement with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The settlement with the agency is tied to an inspection OSHA conducted in 2015 at one of the company’s jobsites in the village of Weston, where authorities found various safety violations. Regulators later fined the company $111,930 in total. Affordable Exteriors reduced its fines to $24,000 in a subsequent settlement deal with the agency but has yet to pay anything.

The owner of Affordable Exteriors, Kent Differt, didn’t return a message seeking comment by press time Thursday. The contractor had previously advertised its roofing and siding services but now has no website.

When OSHA inspectors arrived on Affordable Exteriors’ jobsite in Weston in 2015, the company had already been cited three time in the past three years by state and federal authorities in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Inspectors repeatedly found that the company had failed to require that its workers wear fall-protection equipment on the job. Once again, OSHA inspectors found employees were working at heights of up to 24 feet without safety gear on an Affordable Exteriors jobsite.

Preventable falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry.

Authorities also found various other safety violations at the Weston site. Some employees, for instance, weren’t wearing protective equipment while picking up debris and roofing materials from the ground. One employee was using a circular saw powered by an extension cord spliced together and covered with duct tape, exposing him electric shock.

Inspectors further found the company had no safety protocols in place and had failed to conduct regular safety checks at its jobsite. The agency cited Affordable Exteriors for one willful violation, two repeated violations and three serious safety violations. OSHA’s Appleton office also sent out a news release in November 2015 announcing nearly $112,000 in fines against the company.

“Many people have told Affordable Exteriors to use fall protection — OSHA, Minnesota OSHA and the job-site contractor. The company ignored them all,” said Robert Bonack, OSHA area director in Appleton, said in the release. “That’s a reckless disregard for safety.”

The company and OSHA, however, reached a settlement agreement in 2016 that substantially reduced the fines from the Weston inspection. The deal also required the company to hire a safety consultant, re-train workers and strengthen its safety protocols.

Federal prosecutors, in the lawsuit, said the company hasn’t paid anything toward the fine as part of the settlement, and has racked up thousands of dollars in interest and fees.


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