- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A defunct Pennsylvania company faces nearly $68,000 in federal workplace safety fines for the electrocution death of a roofer - and for sending another worker to finish the job “under the same hazardous conditions” three days later, a federal workplace safety agency said Thursday.

Kolek Woodshop Inc. of East Deer Township let the worker, Andrew Sakala, 58, use an aluminum ladder which touched a 7,200-volt power line on Sept. 12, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“The blatant disregard for worker safety demonstrated is horrifying and completely despicable. This company’s failure to implement basic safeguards resulted in tragedy,” Christopher Robinson, director of OSHA’s Pittsburgh Area Office, said in a statement. “Kolek’s willingness to expose another person’s life to the same dangers just 72 hours after the first fatality is alarming.”

John Kolek, the shop’s owner, didn’t dispute the allegations when contacted by The Associated Press, but said he’s hoping to challenge all or some of the proposed fines.

Kolek has since shut down the business, not because of the accident but because he’s now 79 years old. He blamed the worker for the accident.

“Well, the guy got mad because the scaffolding wasn’t working so he tore it down and picked up half of a 20-foot extension ladder and hit a high tension power wire,” Kolek said.

He also believes the proposed fines of $67,900 are excessive, both because of the nature of the violation and the size of his former business.

Kolek referenced a recent television report about a large company that was fined $63,000 for a fatality that occurred when a man welding a fuel storage tank was killed in an explosion.

“And me, I’m a small operation, three guys, and I’m fined $70,000,” Kolek said.

OSHA found that Kolek’s company didn’t properly report the fatality. Workplace deaths must be reported to OSHA within eight hours.

The company also supplied the worker with a ladder that didn’t have side rails designed to not conduct electricity; erected the scaffolding too close to the power lines; exposed workers to falling hazards while they were on the roof removing shingles; and failing to train employees properly.

All four were “serious” violations, defined by OSHA as those creating a “substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result.”

Kolek has 15 days to challenge the fines. He said he was attending a hearing on the violations Monday.

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