Monday, October 17, 2016

Production engineer Benjamin Cermak, 23, electrocuted to death at Montaplast in Franfort, KY. Second death in two days.

Cause of factory death confirmed: Montaplast employee’s injuries ‘consistent with electrocution’

Published 11:27 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Karen Sherman, a spokesperson for Montaplast, said Tuesday that the Frankfort plant remained closed Tuesday instead of Wednesday. The plant re-opened Wednesday, Sherman said. Additionally, personnel from the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Program, not the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are investigating the deaths.

A preliminary postmortem exam and autopsy performed Tuesday confirmed that the injuries Benjamin Cermak, a 23-year-old production engineer, suffered Monday afternoon at Montaplast’s Frankfort plant “are consistent with electrocution,” according to Franklin County Coroner Will Harrod.

A toxicology exam was also performed, Harrod said, with results expected in three to four weeks.

The investigation is ongoing, with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office assisting the coroner’s office in the death investigation, Harrod said.

Jarrad Hensley, communications director for the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, said personnel from the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Program are also investigating the deaths of Cermak and Montaplast employee Angela Mitchell, who died from injuries sustained in an unrelated accident at the plant last week.

According to a media release from the Fayette County coroner’s office, Mitchell, 35, died Sunday from injuries sustained in a crane accident Friday.

An updated release from Montaplast said its employees offer their thoughts and prayers for Cermak and his family and Mitchell and her family.

“We are deeply saddened by the fatalities of two employees that occurred at the Montaplast of North America manufacturing facility on Friday, Oct. 14 and Monday, Oct. 17,” the release said. “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with their families. The safety and security of our employees is our priority and we are fully cooperating with authorities on these matters.”

Harrod said Cermak moved to Lawrenceburg about three weeks ago for his job at Montaplast and is originally from Erie, Pa.

Harrod confirmed that Cermak and another man both suffered an electrical shock about 1 p.m. Monday. The other man, who has not been identified, was treated and released from Frankfort Regional Medical Center.

OSHA representatives were on site at Montaplast when Monday’s incident occurred, Harrod said. The plant voluntarily closed at 3 p.m. Monday and remained closed Tuesday.

Karen Sherman, a public relations spokesperson for Montaplast, said the Frankfort plant remained closed Tuesday and would be open again Wednesday.

Montaplast makes precision plastic parts and systems for interior and exterior automotive engine components.

Comments posted by workers indicate that this plant has many-many safety issues and that workers always fear that they will be injured or even die.

Man Electrocuted In Workplace Accident At Montaplast Identified 

Posted: Oct 17, 2016 4:15 PM EST Updated: Oct 17, 2016 7:11 PM EST

FRANKFORT, Ky (LEX 18) Two men suffered from electrical shocks Monday at Montaplast in Frankfort, we have learned that one of those men has died.

The Franklin County Fire Chief told LEX 18 that the employees were shocked around 12:30 p.m.

He said that one man was able to walk to the ambulance. He was transported to Frankfort Regional Medical Center.

One of the men was electrocuted and died, the Franklin County Sheriff's Department said. A press release from Montaplast identified the employee as 23-year-old production engineer Benjamin Cermak.

Montaplast stated in their press release that further details regarding the cause of the accident are being investigated and that information will be released when appropriate.

Montaplast and its employees offer their thoughts and prayer for Cermak's family.

Another Montaplast employee died Sunday after an accident that happened last week involving a crane.

Jarrod Hensley, spokesperson for the labor cabinet, says there are two active investigations in regard to Montaplast. One concerning the incident that happened last week and the incident that happened Monday.

Montaplast will be closed Tuesday.

The coroner said that OSHA was on the premises when the incident occurred.

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday. 


State Labor Cabinet opens investigation into Montaplast accident

By Greg Kocher

The state Labor Cabinet opened an investigation Friday into a crane accident in which two employees at a Frankfort plant were injured.

On Thursday night, two production employees of Montaplast of North America were involved in an injury accident involving an overhead crane, the company said in a press release.

One employee sustained a head injury and was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital in Lexington where she underwent emergency surgery. The company did not identify her and the press release said “her condition is presently unknown.”

The second employee sustained a shoulder injury, was treated at a local medical facility and was released, the company said.

Jarrad Hensley, a spokesman for the state Labor Cabinet, confirmed that an investigation was opened, but wrote in an email that “we cannot comment on any ongoing investigations,” according to cabinet policy.

“Montaplast and its employees offer their thoughts and prayers for the injured employees and their families,” the release said.

Montaplast is an automotive supplier of exterior trim parts, center caps, cloth molded interior trim parts, and air intake manifolds, according to the Kentucky Directory of Manufacturers. In 2015, it employed 760 people, the directory said.

Read more here:

The Earth Movement Exclusion: Failure to understand and consider its implications can carry quite serious repercussions for the prosecution or defense of a defect case.

The Earth Movement Exclusion: How Does it Affect Construction Defect Cases?
Jimerson & Cobb P.A.

One of the biggest considerations for parties on both sides of any lawsuit is whether insurance coverage will apply to the plaintiff’s claims. This is especially true in construction defect cases, where the cost of repairing the alleged damage can be significant, and quite often beyond the financial means of the construction professional being sued. However, many litigants in construction defect cases, on both sides of the litigation, do not understand the intricacies of the insurance policy at issue, including the Earth Movement Exclusion present in many policies.

The general liability policies of construction professionals whose work involves construction or modification of the foundation of a structure, or any type of compaction, grading, or moving of land or dirt on a construction site, will typically include the Earth Movement Exclusion (the “Exclusion”). The Exclusion is a clause in the general liability policy that removes coverage under the policy for injury or damage that is wholly or partially caused by virtually all types of earth or land movement, whether occurring naturally or as the result of human action. A common version of the Exclusion in Florida reads:

This insurance does not apply to any “bodily injury” or any “property damage” that is directly or indirectly caused by, involves, or is in any way connected or related to any movement of earth, whether naturally occurring or due to man-made or any other artificial causes.

Movement includes, but is not limited to, settlement, cracking, contraction, compaction, compression, consolidation, subsidence, shrinking, expansion, heaving, swelling, cave-in, erosion, vibration, shock, earthquake, landslide, mudflow, wind-driven, freezing, thawing or any other movement of earth, regardless of the cause.

Earth includes but is not limited to any dirt, soil, terrain, mud, silt, sediment, clay, rock, sand, fill material or any other substances or materials contained therein.

Based on the plain reading of this exclusion, one can see how it can easily cover a wide range of defect cases and/or claims. Accordingly, the Exclusion has significant implications for plaintiffs and their attorneys when bringing a construction defect claim that may be the result of some sort of earth movement believed to be caused by a construction defect.

The duty of an insurer to defend an insured is triggered when the complaint alleges facts that fairly and potentially bring the suit within policy coverage. State Farm and Casualty Co. v. Higgins, 788 So. 2d 992 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001); Smith v. General Acc. Ins. Co. of America, 641 So. 2d 123 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994). Similarly, there will be no duty to defend or indemnify an insured where the lawsuit’s claims are clearly covered by an exception to the policy. Keen v. Fla. Sheriffs’ Self Insurance, 962 So. 2d 1021 (Fla. 4th DCA); Reliance Ins. Co. v. Royal Motorcar Corp., 534 So.2d 922 (Fla. 4th DCA 1988). Therefore, plaintiffs whose complaints allege some form of damage due to settling or shifting of the foundation as a result of a construction defect may find that they have pled themselves out of having the defendant’s insurer provide coverage and/or a defense related to the claim.

For instance, suppose a plaintiff contracts with a general contractor for the construction of a new home. A few years after the home is completed and the plaintiff has moved in, she notices that her outside pavers have become uneven and cracked; she then inspects the rest of her home and finds several small cracks at the base of some of her walls. The plaintiff hires a construction professional to assess the damage to her home, and is told that it will cost at least $75,000 to repair the damage. The professional further informs the plaintiff that the damage is likely due to poor construction by the contractor who built the home, so the plaintiff hires an attorney to sue the contractor for her damages. The attorney subsequently drafts and files a complaint, alleging that, because of poor construction by the contractor, there has been soil shifting or subsidence, which has resulted in the damage to plaintiff’s home.

Upon receiving the complaint, the contractor submits the claim to his insurer, who promptly denies coverage for the plaintiff’s claim based upon the Earth Movement Exclusion contained in the contractor’s policy. While the plaintiff has a legitimate claim, and the contractor is in fact culpable for the damage, the contractor does not have assets to cover the $75,000 cost of repair (let alone additional funds to cover the plaintiff’s claim for attorney’s fees when she wins the case). As a result, plaintiff is left with the option of giving up on her suit or pursuing a claim where, when she prevails, the contractor will not be able to satisfy her judgment.

However, if the plaintiff’s attorney had alleged that there was damage to the home as the result of a construction defect, but left out the allegations of the soil shifting or subsidence, then it is likely that, when the contractor submits the claim to his insurer, the insurer will at least have to defend the contractor by providing him with an attorney. As a result, the contractor will not be paying legal fees out of his own pocket and there is a chance the claim will be covered by the contractor’s policy, both of which facts can greatly influence whether or not a timely and successful resolution can be achieved for the plaintiff. The whole status of the case has been changed and the chance for plaintiff to settle her claim favorably has been greatly enhanced. Thus, one can see that, from the plaintiff’s perspective, an understanding of the Exception can have a significant and real impact on the success of a construction defect claim.

Similarly, an understanding of the Exclusion is also important for construction professionals as well. First, the professional needs to understand his general liability policy and determine if there is an Earth Movement Exclusion and then assess whether, and how, that Exclusion might be implicated in, or otherwise affect, his current and future projects. If the professional’s liability policy includes the Exclusion, perhaps the right decision for him is to purchase a policy wherein the Exclusion is not included. Alternatively, perhaps the right decision for him is to include an earth movement waiver in his own contracts, absolving him of liability for claims arising from earth movement. Regardless of how he chooses to address the situation, it is important for any construction professional whose work involves movement, compaction, or grading of soil to understand and consider the implications of the Exclusion to his business, and how to address such implications, prior to facing a defect suit involving earth movement.

Additionally, if a construction professional finds himself being sued for a claim involving possible earth movement, it is of equal importance that he consults an attorney who understands the implications of the Exclusion to review his policy and the lawsuit. At that time, the attorney can advise the professional whether he should persist in demanding coverage for the lawsuit’s claims (up to and including a declaratory action for coverage) or, if the attorney determines that the Exclusion applies, assist the professional in educating the plaintiff and her attorneys as to the implications of the Exclusion, how it affects the plaintiff’s claims, and negotiating a favorable resolution.

In summation, the Earth Movement Exclusion is an important and little-understood provision in construction professionals’ liability policies. Failure to understand and consider its implications can carry quite serious repercussions for the prosecution or defense of a defect case.

Ross Compton, 59, faces charges of aggravated arson and insurance fraud in connection to a fire at his home in Middletown, Ohio

OCTOBER 17, 2016

A Middletown, Ohio, man has been arrested in connection to a fire at his home.

The fire happened on Sept. 19 in the 1900 block of Court Donegal.

Officials arriving at the home found a large portion of the house engulfed in flames. After a 40-minute firefight, crews were able to extinguish the blaze.

During an investigation, officials found evidence that the fire was intentionally set, they said.

On Monday, Middletown police arrested Ross Compton, 59, who was the previous resident of the Court Donegal home. He was staying at a nearby hotel, investigators said.

Compton faces charges of aggravated arson and insurance fraud.

He was booked into the Middletown City Jail and is set to appear in court Wednesday. 



UPDATE, Oct. 17:

Middletown police made an arrest in this arson fire. Ross Compton, 59, is the previous resident of this home and currently staying at a hotel. He’s charged with felony aggravated arson and insurance fraud.

He was charged Oct. 17, and will appear in Middletown Municipal Court at 9 a.m. Oct. 19.

UPDATE, Sept. 21:

Middletown fire investigators said there were multiple points of origin of the fire from the outside of the residence, according to a search warrant obtained by the Journal-News.

In his 911 call, the homeowner said that “everyone” was out of the house and at the end of the call is heard saying to someone to “get out of here now.”

Ross Compton Jr., 58, the homeowner, has extensive medical problems, including an artificial heart implant and he uses an eternal pump. When he saw the fire, Compton said he packed up his belongings in a suitcase, bags and threw them out his bedroom window after he broke out the glass with a cane. He placed the items in the vehicle that was parked in the driveway, according to the search warrant.

Police said Compton gave statements that were “inconsistent” with the evidence at the fire. He also gave conflicting statements to the ones he told the 911 operator, police said.

Police removed 16 items from the home and from Compton, according to the document. They removed his clothing, computers and paperwork.

No arrests have been made, police said.


Residents were awakened Monday morning by a “loud explosion” that came from a house fire in the 1900 block of Court Donegal, they said.

A neighbor said his two dogs started barking around 6:30 a.m., and when he looked out his bedroom window, he saw flames shooting in the air.

The man called 9-1-1, then ran next door to check to see if anyone was home. He saw two men running from the residence. One of them, Ross Compton Jr., 58, the homeowner, was carrying a computer tower and asked the man for assistance to put it in his vehicle. The neighbor said he did not recognize the other man.

Once the neighbor was told there was no one else in the house, he became concerned the flames may catch nearby trees on fire and then spread to his home. However, all the recent rain likely kept that from happening, he said.

Another neighbor, Gina Pennington, said after hearing the explosion, she looked out and saw “big flames” coming from across her street.

Throughout the day, Middletown police and fire officials remained at the residence that’s located off Riverview Avenue. Lt. Jim Cunningham returned around 12:30 p.m. with a search warrant. Earlier in the day, he said police were conducting a criminal investigation.

A crime scene identification truck was parked near the residence, and police posted caution tape around the house.

Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Spaulding said the cause of the fire was undetermined. He said the fire caused about $400,000 in damages to the structure and contents. The 2,000-square-foot home, which has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, was built in 1977 and was valued at $179,000, according to the Butler County Auditor’s website.

Spaulding said firefighters arrived on scene at 6:45 a.m., six minutes after being dispatched. He said there was heavy fire coming from the roof of the garage when firefighters arrived. It took firefighters about 30 minutes to get the fire under control, he said.

Compton was transported to Atrium Medical Center, then released in the afternoon, police said. Fire officials said Compton’s injuries were not the result of the blaze. He had a previous medical condition, they said.

Most Hazardous Occupations in Virginia


(01 JAN 2015 - 31 DEC 2015)

1. 1926.100(a)  Hard hats 
2. 1926.50(c) First aid 
3. 1926.501(b)(13) Residential fall protection
Unprotected sides and edges
Fall protection on aerial lifts
Ladder safety
Eye and face protection
Electrical safet - grounding path
Steep roofs
16VAC25-160- 10.C.1
Toilet and handwashing facilities
Roofing work on low-slope roofs
Certification of fall protection training
Construction safety and health programs
Fall protection on scaffolds
Fall protection training
Personal protective equipment
Ladder safety
Electrical safety
Each employee in an excavation
Hazard communication program
Fire safety
Hazard communication training
Electrical safety

BEST PRACTICES FOR PREVENTING FATALITIES, INJURIES AND ILLNESESS: Virginia officials are seeing a surge in workplace deaths in 2016, in pace for 80% increase over 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia officials are seeing a surge in workplace deaths and they say if the trend continues the state could see an 80 percent increase this year.

The Department of Labor and Industry said in a statement that 29 workers have died from job-related injuries and illnesses this year through the end of July.

There were 31 workplace deaths in all of 2015 and the same number of deaths in 2014. Officials say nine of the 29 fatalities this year have occurred in the construction industry.The department is urging employers to carefully review injury and illness prevention programs and safety and health procedures with workers.


Virginia employees and employers have a strong history of maintaining fatality, injury and illness rates below national averages.

But through the first 7 months of 2016, there has been a surge in Virginia workplace fatalities.  29 Virginia workers have died of job-related injuries and illnesses through the end of July, 2016, compared to 31 deaths for all of 2015.  

“In the month of July alone, 8 Virginia workers have lost their lives in workplace accidents, devastating families, friends, co-workers and businesses", said Commissioner C. Ray Davenport.  "If this horrific trend in workplace deaths continues, Virginia will experience a 80% increase in fatal accidents investigated by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program in 2016".

SOURCE:  DOLI Public Service Announcement, SURGE IN VIRGINIA WORKPLACE FATALITIES IN 2016 (English) Acrobat Icon(47KB) SURGE EN LUGAR DE TRABAJO DE VIRGINIA MUERTES EN 2016 (Spanish) Acrobat Icon(47KB)
Immediate steps that can be taken by employers and workers to avoid workplace injuries and illnesses include:
  • Conducting a safety and health "Stand Down" meeting and encourage discussion on recognizing and correcting hazards in the workplace. 

  • Working together with Front Line Employees as a team to make the workplace a safer, healthier and happier place to work.

  • Establishing and implementing a Safety and Health Program for the work site with full employee involvement.
  • Improving accident prevention through Hazard Analysis, encouraging employee reporting of hazards and near misses, and timely correction of hazards.
Hazard Identification Training
Hazard Prevention/Control
Virginia’s Most Frequently Cited Standards in General Industry and Construction
  • Increasing reporting of hazards and injuries in the workplace.  Many times minor injuries go unreported and more severe injuries result later on as a result of an uncorrected hazard in the workplace.

  • Increasing attention toward the safety of vulnerable workers such as temporary workers or those who are not fluent in English.
Temporary Worker Issues
Spanish Speaking Workforce
  • VOSH offers free On-Site Consultation Services to help small businesses better understand and voluntarily comply with VOSH standards.  Priority is given to high hazard workplaces with 250 or fewer employees.  Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry office closest to you at or by contacting Warren Rice, Director of Cooperative Programs at (804) 786-6613 or
More information on injury and illness programs can be found at INJURY AND ILLNESS PREVENT PROGRAMS.
More information on training for employees and employers can be found at TRAINING.
More information on assistance available to small businesses can be found at SMALL BUSINESSES.
More information on reporting workplace fatalities (within 8 hours) and severe work-related injuries - defined as a hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye (within 24 hours) can be found at REPORT WORKPLACE FATALITIES. (fatalities and severe injuries can also be reported through OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742), or a local VOSH regional office. 

Workplace fatality victims are exposed to some of the most frequently cited OSHA hazards such as falls, struck-by, and electrocution.  In Virginia, employers are required to follow all federal OSHA identical standards as well as Virginia Unique Standards which are available at STATE SPECIFIC STANDARDS.
Information on statistics for the VOSH Program can be found at VOSH COMMONLY USED STATISTICS
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, or file a complaint, contact the VOSH Safety Program Director at or 804-786-7776.

B&Y Pest Control agreed to pay a civil penalty of $14,000 for improperly applying pesticides at the Sky City School in the Pueblo of Acoma

EPA Protects Children from Pesticide Exposure at Pueblo of Acoma School
Contact Information:
Jennah Durant or Joe Hubbard (
214 665-2200

DALLAS – (Oct. 17, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined a New Mexico company for improperly applying pesticides at the Sky City School in the Pueblo of Acoma. B&Y Pest Control had been contracted to address a prairie dog infestation at the school in June 2015. An EPA inspector found the company failed to use tamper-resistant bait stations to minimize exposure to children, pets and non-target pests, and used a restricted-use pesticide on tribal lands without a federal license, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

“Protecting the health of children is one of EPA’s top priorities, especially preventing their exposure to potentially harmful materials,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Companies must follow the law to ensure our schools are safe environments for learning and growing.”

B&Y agreed to a consent agreement and final order to settle the case and paid a civil penalty of $14,000. The company has since come into compliance with FIFRA by acquiring the proper federal licenses, which any person or company applying restricted-use pesticides on tribal lands must have.

FIFRA governs the registration, distribution, sale and use of pesticides in the U.S. The law requires companies and individuals to apply and use pesticides only according to instructions on a product’s EPA-approved label. While pesticides can safely be used in schools, EPA also encourages schools and day cares to use integrated pest management (IPM) tools and techniques. IPM focuses on pest prevention and using pesticides only as needed for a more effective, environmentally sensitive approach. IPM techniques emphasize removing conditions that attract pests, such as potential sources of food, water and shelter.

More about FIFRA:

More about integrated pest management:

EPA fined Portland, Oregon based remodeling firm, Hammer and Hand Inc., $69,398, for failing to comply with federal lead-based paint rules

EPA Fines Hammer and Hand Inc. for Lead Paint Violations at Home Renovations in Portland, Oregon
Contact Information:
Suzanne Skadowski (

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined a Portland, Oregon based remodeling firm, Hammer and Hand Inc., $69,398, for failing to comply with federal lead-based paint rules. EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule protects the public from lead-based paint health hazards during repair or remodeling activities in housing built before 1978. Hammer and Hand failed to follow lead-safe work practices while performing renovation work on two older homes in Portland last year.

According to Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA Region 10's Office of Compliance and Enforcement, “Making sure that lead-based paint is properly removed and handled helps protect people's health during repairs or renovations in older homes, particularly where children live. This case shows that EPA is serious about making sure companies that break the law are held accountable when they ignore the rules and put public health at risk.”

Hammer and Hand is a general contracting and remodeling firm with offices in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. In 2015, EPA inspectors found multiple violations during renovations the firm conducted at two older homes in Portland. Specifically, the firm failed to: determine if lead-based paint was present; perform on-the-job training on lead-safe work practices; post warning signs about lead-based paint renovation works and hazards; cover the ground with plastic sheeting to collect falling paint debris; contain paint chips and waste to prevent release of lead-contaminated dust and debris; and perform post-renovation cleaning. See photos below.

The Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, which is a part of the Toxic Substances Control Act, is intended to ensure that owners and occupants of housing built before 1978 or any child-occupied facilities, receive information on lead-based paint hazards before renovations begin, and that workers performing renovations are properly trained, certified by EPA, and follow specific work practices to reduce the risk of lead-based paint exposure.

Lead-based paint was banned in 1978 but still remains in many homes and apartments across the country. Lead dust hazards can occur when lead-based paint deteriorates or is disturbed during renovation and remodeling activities. Lead exposure can cause a range of health problems, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death. Young children are at the greatest health risk because their bodies and nervous systems are still developing. A blood lead test is the only way to determine if a child has a high lead level. Parents who think their child has been in contact with lead dust or other sources of lead should contact their child's health care provider.

Renovation firms that are certified under the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule are encouraged to display EPA’s “Lead-Safe” logo on worker’s uniforms, signs, websites and other material. Consumers can protect themselves by looking for the logo before hiring a renovation firm. Consumers can learn more about the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule and hiring a certified firm by calling the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD or visiting

EPA Photo 1 of 3 shows Hammer & Hand, Inc. violated the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule by failing to post signs clearly defining the work area and to warn occupants and others to remain outside the work area until the lead paint renovation and post-renovation cleaning verification were completed. The firm also failed to cover the ground with plastic sheeting to collect falling paint debris. EPA photo shows Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule violations by Hammer & Hand, Inc. when it failed to contain waste from renovation activities to prevent releases of dust and debris before the waste is removed from the work area for storage or disposal as shown in this pile of unwrapped construction debris. EPA photo shows Hammer & Hand, Inc. violated the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule when it failed to contain waste from renovation activities to prevent releases of lead dust and debris before the waste is removed for storage or disposal as shown by the unwrapped construction debris a worker was loading in the back of the firm’s truck.

York Building Products agrees to pay $135K in back wages, damages to terminated plant manager following OSHA whistleblower investigation

Oct. 17, 2016

Pennsylvania masonry company agrees to pay $135K in back wages, damages
to terminated plant manager following OSHA whistleblower investigation
Investigation found York Building Products violated federal law

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. - A Pennsylvania masonry company terminated a plant manager - less than two weeks after it hired him - after the manager repeatedly reported air quality and other safety and health hazards to upper management at the company's Middletown plant in 2014.

York Building Products has entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor whereby the company will pay a total of $135,000 in back wages and compensatory damages to the terminated employee. The settlement resolves a whistleblower investigation conducted by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The company is one of the nation's largest producers of masonry units.

The employee began work as a plant manager on or around Oct. 1, 2014. Shortly after, he identified several safety and health problems at the plant; among them were excessive respirable dust, worker exposure to noxious chemicals caused by equipment overspray, lack of personal protective equipment for workers, and broken tools and equipment. The manager also received multiple complaints from plant employees about safety and health conditions there. After receiving these complaints, he brought safety concerns to the attention of the plant operations manager on a daily basis.

During the week of Oct. 7, a plant worker complained of illness, blaming excessive respirable dust as the cause. The manager then alerted the operations manager, again raising concerns about the plant's air quality and requesting that air quality testing be performed. The operations manager denied the request, and the existence of air quality problems, and then terminated the manager.

"Employers should act promptly and positively when they receive safety complaints from employees. In this instance, the employer did not, and they are paying the price." said Oscar L. Hampton III, Regional Solicitor in Philadelphia. "This settlement agreement makes the complainant whole for his wrongful termination and has a ripple effect that will act as a deterrent for other employers."

On Oct. 14, the terminated manager filed two complaints with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. One complaint alleged safety and health hazards at the plant, and the other complaint alleged the company fired him in retaliation for reporting these hazards. On Oct. 20, OSHA began its safety and health investigation of the plant. Inspectors identified 38 violations, resulting in $38,880 in fines. Air samplings collected in the investigation showed that certain plant employees had been exposed to silica dust at amounts up to 14 times greater than permissible exposure limits.

"Extended exposure to silica dust can leave workers at risk of developing silicosis - a disabling, non-reversible and sometimes fatal lung disease. It may also cause other non-malignant respiratory diseases, such as chronic bronchitis; lung cancer and kidney disease," said Richard Mendelson, OSHA Regional Administrator in Philadelphia. "York Building Products failed to protect its employees. Furthermore, no worker should have to fear retaliation when they raise workplace safety and health concerns."

The whistleblower investigation found the company violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it terminated the former plant manager. In addition to paying the back wages and damages, under this whistleblower settlement, York Building Products is required to provide supervisors with anti-retaliation training at the location where the terminated employee worked, and post the OSHA poster entitled, "Job Safety and Health, It's The Law."

A subsidiary of The Stewart Companies, York Building Products provides stone masonry, sand and gravel, asphalt and other products at nearly 20 locations in Pennsylvania and Maryland. It is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's largest masonry providers.

The Department's Office of the Regional Solicitor in Philadelphia handled the case.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise concerns about health and safety hazards in the workplace to the employer or the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conducted may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. More information is available online at

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by settling and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

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$900K in damages after two-alarm fire rips through at 228 Newbury Street brownstone in Boston, Mass.

Two-alarm fire in Newbury Street brownstone causes $900,000 in damages

Basement was a walk-in restaurant. 1st floor an art gallery. 6 apts floors 2-3-4. Chief estimates damage at $900,000.00

 By Felicia Gans Globe Correspondent October 16, 2016
Jan Beaven

Boston firefighters extinguished a two-alarm blaze at a Newbury Street brownstone Sunday evening, fire officials said.

The fire started at about 6:18 p.m. on the first floor of 228 Newbury St., which has businesses on the first floor and residences above, the Boston fire department wrote on Twitter.

The four-story brownstone has six one-room apartments. The basement is a restaurant, and the first floor is an art gallery.

The fire started in the rear of the building and extended to the second floor, the fire department said.

At about 6:40 p.m., the department tweeted that the heavy fire had been extinguished, and firefighters were checking for hot spots.

Fire officials estimate the damages are at about $900,000, the department said. No injuries have been reported.

Richard Anthony Sepolio, 25, a member of the U.S. Navy, is facing DUI and vehicular manslaughter charges after the pickup truck he was driving plunged off a San Diego bridge, killing four people and injuring nine at a festival below

This is Richard Anthony Sepolio, 25, a member of the U.S. Navy, who killed 4 after driving drunk and recklessly

Navy man faces charges in truck crash that killed 4 in San Diego; 2 victims ID'd as Hacienda Heights residents

A member of the U.S. Navy is facing DUI and vehicular manslaughter charges after the pickup truck he was driving plunged off a San Diego bridge, killing four people and injuring nine at a festival below. (KABC)

A member of the U.S. Navy is facing DUI and vehicular manslaughter charges after the pickup truck he was driving plunged off a San Diego bridge, killing four people and injuring nine at a festival below.

Richard Anthony Sepolio, 25, who was stationed at the naval base on Coronado Island across the bay from San Diego, was alone in the truck Saturday afternoon when he lost control and fell 60 feet onto a vendor's booth at Chicano Park, California Highway Patrol Officer Jake Sanchez said.

Sepolio remained hospitalized Sunday with serious injuries. His rank or job description was not immediately available.

"It's horrible. It's horrific. We had innocent people down here having a good time, and now they're gone," Sanchez said after the crash.

The people who were killed were Cruz Elias Contreras, 52, and Annamarie Contreras, 50, of Chandler, Arizona; and Andre Christopher Banks, 49, and Francine Denise Jimenez, 46, both from Hacienda Heights, a suburb east of Los Angeles, the San Diego County Medical Examiner said.

Witnesses had said four people in the booth were crushed by the truck.

Eight people on the ground were injured. One suffered major trauma, and seven others had minor to moderate injuries, said Lee Swanson, a spokesman for the city's Fire-Rescue Department.

Witnesses said the GMC pickup truck with Texas license plates landed on a vendor's booth set up for La Raza Run, a motorcycle ride that begins in downtown Los Angeles and ends with a celebration at the park. The crash took place steps away from a stage where a rockabilly band was playing.

On Sunday, mourners gathered at the park to lay flowers and candles and say prayers for the victims.

Tina Camarillo told the San Diego Union-Tribune she and her daughter were in a booth next to the one that was hit.

"To see such tragedy in an instant . . . ," she said. "(The truck) fell and all I saw was darkness, the glass blew, the canopy fell on my head. My daughter was running to get my mom. It was horrible."

Iris Jimenez, 29, told the newspaper she got out of the way just in time.

"I saw the truck coming at me, and if I hadn't run, I'd be dead," Jimenez told the newspaper. Her companion, Pedro Sanchez, was one of several men who rushed to lift the pickup off the victims.

Photos from the scene show the truck's front end crumpled and its hood popped open.

The park is beneath the bridge in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in central San Diego.

A passenger truck fell from the Coronado Bridge onto an event in Chicano Park killing four people and injuring several others.
Pauline Repard and Jeff McDonald

What started as an annual Los Angeles-to-San Diego biker run turned into an unthinkable tragedy Saturday as a pickup truck swerved over a San Diego-Coronado Bridge retaining wall and plunged 60 or more feet onto vendors’ sales booths during a festival in Chicano Park.

Four people were killed almost instantly and nine others were injured, authorities said. Two of the injured victims suffered major trauma.

The driver, who was later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, was in shock within seconds of the crash and asked witnesses who rushed to his aid to please contact his commander at a nearby military base.

Authorities identified him as Richard Anthony Sepolio, 25, a Navy man stationed in Coronado.

The names of those who died were not released. The California Highway Patrol said they were a man, 62, and a woman, 50, from Chandler, Ariz., and a man 59 and a woman, 49, from Hacienda Heights.

Some witnesses said two were motorcyclists in La Raza Run and two were tending a booth, selling T-shirts at the Barrio Logan event.

Iris Jimenez, 29, of La Puente, said she was friends with the two riders, and described them as “very nice people.”

“I saw the truck coming at me, and if I hadn’t run, I’d be dead,” Jimenez said. Her companion, Pedro Sanchez, was one of several men who rushed to lift the pickup off the dead victims.

“It’s horrible. Its horrific,” said Officer Jake Sanchez of the California Highway Patrol, one of several agencies that responded to the emergency call. “Innocent people were down here having a good time.”

Police and paramedics swarmed to the busy park when officers reported multiple casualties among the visitors. They credited bystanders with shoving the overturned pickup upright, offering first aid within seconds of the crash, and for helping emergency crews close the roads beneath the bridge.

One woman was reported to have a suffered a compound fracture, with the bone showing, and a man had an injured leg, police said.

The injured were taken to Scripps Mercy Hospital, UC San Diego Medical Center and Sharp Coronado Hospital. Most of them were described as having moderate injuries and were expected to survive.

“It’s a miracle there weren’t more people hurt,” said San Diego police Capt. Chuck Kaye. He said several officers who had stopped by to check on the crowd saw the pickup fly off the freeway. They immediately went to aid the injured.

The driver was traveling from a northbound lane on Interstate 5 west onto the bridge when he lost control of his GMC pickup about 3:45 p.m. The tan truck with Texas license plates landed steps away from a stage, where the Los Angeles blues-roots band The 44s was in the middle of its performance, witnesses said.

A CHP spokesman said no police officers were pursuing the pickup before it crashed.

Stunned bystanders watched as what had been a sun-soaked afternoon of music and entertainment turned into a deathly emergency scene. One witness said it was “instant chaos and panic.”

The CHP immediately closed the I-5 north access to the bridge so investigators could do their work. The eastbound lanes remained open, and the westbound side remained closed until about 11 p.m.

San Diego, Coronado and Harbor police assisted victims, strung barrier tape around part of the park and ushered motorcycle riders out of the way of arriving fire engines and ambulances.

Several thousand people were gathered in the Barrio Logan park for what is known as the La Raza Run.

One attendee said up to 2,000 bikers left downtown Los Angeles on Saturday morning headed for San Diego, with a stop at a Lake Elsinore casino, then the Chicano Park festival of music and food capping off the run. An after-party was held in National City. Up to 1,000 others, including families and children, were from the different neighborhoods in San Diego.

People who witnessed the crash said they were stunned at what they were seeing.

An unidentfied person is transported to a hospital after being injured when a vehicle plunged off the San Diego-Coronado Bridge into an afternoon crowd at Chicano Park. (Hayne Palmour)

“I saw a truck come right off the freeway. It was going so fast it flew over the stage and landed in front of the stage on a tent, a booth that was set up,” said Chase Dameron, who was about 30 feet away.

He said four people in the booth were crushed by the pickup. Debris from the crash was scattered onto a neighboring vendor’s booth.

“It was like a movie. It was like in slow motion,” Dameron said. “Where it hit, there was dust and debris and instant chaos and panic. People running crazy.”

Isaac Cardoza of Los Angeles was selling hats at a nearby booth when the pickup came hurtling from the bridge. He said at first he thought it was a big piece of cardboard, but that didn’t make any sense.

He said the truck crushed one booth staffed with people selling T-shirts from the Wagon Wheel bar in Pico Rivera, and a second booth for a charity organization. Many witnesses whipped out cellphones to document what they were seeing, he said.

“A lot of people were holding their phones in the air, trying to record everything,” Cardoza said.

Paul Gomez, a musician with the band Generations Boulevard, said his group had finished its set before the crash.

“I was sitting on the steps of the stage and the truck came over my head,” said Gomez, who lives in the L.A. suburb of Covina. “It hit the front end, bounced and landed on its side.”

Karen Hoffman, a flight nurse who is married to Gomez, said she scrambled to the crash site, but there was little to do for the people who had been in the booth. She said she tried to comfort the driver as paramedics and investigators made their way to the scene.

Another witness who identified himself only as James said he and his girlfriend were struck by some of the metal, wood and other materials that went flying once the truck nose-dived into the booth.

“We cheated death today,” said James, who said he pushed his girlfriend to safety when he realized what was happening.

By nightfall, people were creating a memorial to the dead with candles and flowers.

None of the victims was immediately identified. In a tweet, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said: “Praying for victims & families affected by the tragedy in Chicano Park. Devastated this occurred in one of our community's most beloved places.”