OSHA Targets Hawaii Solar Contractors for Safety Violations

October 27, 2015

As Hawaii’s rooftop solar industry continues to grow, more contractors are being hit with fines relating to fall protection violations.

Half the state’s top 10 contractors have had to pay fines for fall protection violations over the past five years, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.

“With solar there are so many brand-new companies and with new companies you get a lot of new, inexperienced kids up on the roofs – inexperienced guys you see putting themselves in danger,” said Enrique Subiono, training director for the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local 221.

The need to work fast is one reason workers may break safety rules, Subiono said.

“There is a lot of pressure put on the work crew and the individual to get it done quickly,” Subiono said. “You don’t really see guys wearing those body harnesses because it is cumbersome to work with.”

But Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health administrator, Diantha Goo, said making sure safety rules are followed is the employer’s responsibility.

“The employers are supposed to be taking care of their employees,” Goo said. “Nobody should be dying at work. There are no accidents. There are only procedures that weren’t followed.”

An OSHA investigation into the death of a worker at a McCully building on Sept. 23 found that 26-year-old James “Kimo” Failing was not using a complete safety system as required by work safety standards when he fell to his death. Failing should have been equipped with a personal fall arrest system – a harness securely fastened to a rope connected to anchor points that are mounted to the roof.

Failing’s employer, Island Pacific Energy LLC, was fined nearly $3,000 last year for five worker safety violations by the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division. The violations included employees not being tethered to harnesses and lack of proper training to recognize fall hazards.

Island Pacific Energy President Joe Saturnia declined to comment.

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