Carl Paladino’s Ellicott Development Co. has been fined $44,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 10 “serious violations of workplace health and safety standards,” after the company was cited for exposing workers to lead and the risk of falls from a rooftop at a Buffalo work site.
The agency, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, found that workers were exposed to lead while tearing down and disposing of walls containing lead paint at the site on Clinton Street.
Officials said the developer failed to conduct monitoring and sampling to determine lead exposure levels and didn’t provide workers with training, respiratory protection, protective clothing, medical surveillance or information about the hazards of lead.
Lead exposure, even for the short term, can damage the blood-forming, nervous, urinary and reproductive systems.
“This employer failed to take the basic steps necessary to protect workers against a potentially significant health hazard,” Arthur Dube, OSHA’s area director in Buffalo, said.
“Ellicott Development must ensure that the proper safeguards are in place, in use and effective at this and all its job sites where workers may be exposed to lead.”
In addition, the agency found that workers risked falling 15 feet from the unprotected edge of the building’s roof as they threw materials into a dumpster. The roof also had unguarded holes in the floor, and the casters of a scaffold were not locked to prevent movement.
“Employers can address and prevent hazards, such as these, by establishing an injury and illness prevention program in which workers and management continually work to identify and eliminate hazardous conditions,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.
OSHA cited the developer for conditions at 2017 Clinton, where workers were performing demolition work. That’s the site of a small two-story building, with a retail storefront, that Ellicott bought out of foreclosure. The developer plans to put in a few apartments upstairs, according to CEO William Paladino.
He said the company had bought the property in its current condition, which he called “a total mess,” and hadn’t investigated it at first to see what was involved. He acknowledged that mistakes were likely made.
“It’s just an unfortunate misstep on our guys’ fault. We just weren’t paying attention and doing something we shouldn’t have done,” he said. “The guys just went a little further than they probably should have gone, and obviously this happens.”
The citations and fines followed a probe by OSHA’s Buffalo office that started in December 2012 after the office received a complaint. Ellicott now has 15 business days to comply with the fines, meet with Dube or challenge the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Paladino said the company would probably challenge the size of the fines and some of the specific items that OSHA mentioned but not the overall assertion. He said the company already provides OSHA training but would obviously “take more precautions in the future and better train our people to foresee stuff like that.”
“We don’t think we were totally at fault,” he said. “Did we do some things that, according to OSHA, aren’t correct? It seems like we did.”