• Cost of roofers breaking the law could fall back on homeowners

    By: Jenna Bourne, Action News Jax

    Updated:

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Roofing contractors across our area are breaking the rules meant to keep their workers safe.

    Action News Jax went undercover to expose local roofing contractors breaking laws meant to keep workers from falling.

    Driving in an unmarked car last month, our crew visited 20 homes in Duval and St. Johns Counties where roof work was being done.

    We found workers on top of 17 of those 20 homes were not using fall protection required by law, such as a harness with tethers.

    “Jesus, lady, you're about to get me in trouble,” said BRC Roofing and Construction roofer Ronnie West.

    The law requires that employers protect their workers from falling when they work at any height above 6 feet, which includes anyone working on top of a roof.

    “I know what I’m doing. I'm being safe," said West, after Action News Jax asked whether he was worried about falling while working on top of a roof in the rain.

    In the past two years, the number of contractors cited by OSHA's Jacksonville area office for fall protection violations increased 80 percent.

    Fines can run from $13,000-$129,000 for each worker who's not protected.

    It's not just a financial risk; father of two Timothy Parker is living with the physical toll after falling nearly 20 feet off a roof.

    "The next thing I know, I'm just going down,” said Parker. "I have a broken femur down here, fractured it. My hip and my pelvis were broken. I have a metal rod, two screws, and two nails."

    One roofer agreed to talk to Action News Jax off camera after we caught him and his crew working without fall protection.

    He said he feels less safe while wearing a harness and tethers.

    “It's just in the way. It's more of a tripping hazard than anything," he said.

    He admitted he's been fined by OSHA for not wearing fall protection before, but is still willing to take the risk.

    He said the cost of following the rules would fall back on homeowners.

    “If we did everything to the OSHA guidelines, we would have to charge twice the amount of money to put on this roof because it'd take us two times, three times as long,” he said.

    Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson said, if a worker falls on your property and the contractor doesn't have worker's comp or adequate liability coverage, that worker could sue you or homeowners insurance company.

    “It's in your best interest to get that policy from the actual insurance carrier and make sure it's valid for the time that they're going to be working on your property,” said Carson.

    Action News Jax took our findings to the Department of Labor and requested an interview.

    Dept. of Labor spokesman Eric Lucero emailed the following statement:

    “OSHA is committed to employee safety and fall protection is a significant focus for residential roofing activities. OSHA conducted 984 inspections in the State of Florida related to fall hazards in construction and continues to make these type of inspections a priority.  A summary of applicable standards can be found in the OSHA publication titled “Protecting Roofing Workers”, which is available at www.osha.gov.   If you have witnessed a situation which you believe places an employee at risk, please contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA to report the location and activity you witnessed.”

    When Action News Jax pointed out Lucero’s statement did not address how local contractors are regularly getting away with putting their employees’ lives at risk, Lucero responded by asking for our video.

    Lucero said on Thursday that OSHA inspectors visited all 17 sites that Action News Jax found were not in compliance, but by the time OSHA got there, the work was already done.

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