A roofing company owner charged with lying to federal authorities investigating the death of an employee illustrates why door and window installers must take falling hazards seriously. OSHA logo

James J. McCullagh of  Philadelphia was recently indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on four counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of willfully violating an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation that led to the death of an employee.

On June 21, 2013, one of McCullagh’s workers died after falling 45 feet from a scaffold at a job site, according to the DOJ’s indictment.  During OSHA’s investigation, McCullagh allegedly tried to cover up his failure to provide fall protection by falsely stating four times that he had done so, the DOJ says.  The indictment also charges that McCullagh knew he had not provided fall protection to his employees, and that he ordered other employees to falsely state that they had fall protection on the day of the accident.

If convicted, McCullagh faces up to 25 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

“Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, and it’s no secret how critical fall protection is to saving worker’s lives,” said Robert D. Kulick, acting OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia, in a statement. “OSHA cited James J. McCullagh for not protecting his workers and not providing a safe work environment. We are hopeful that this indictment will lead to accountability for this unnecessary and totally preventable workplace fatality, and most importantly, that his family will finally see justice. Employers who fail to fulfill their legal responsibilities to provide safe and healthy workplaces, who provide false statements to OSHA, and who coerce their employees to provide false statements will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

McCullagh’s indictment comes in the wake of other recent OSHA citations for fall hazards in the fenestration industry.

Last month, Pinnacle Roofing Contractors of Florida was hit with $154,000 in penalties for not providing adequate safety precautions at a site where one of its employees fell to his death through a skylight.

Also in May, nine contractors at the newly constructed Oasis Park Square development in Doral, Fla., including window-installation firm Unity Windows of Medley, Fla., were cited for a total of $152,000 in violations. Unity Windows received $10,000 in penalties for failing to protect workers from falls.

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