Three contractors building a new housing complex in Valley Stream have been cited by the federal government for jeopardizing workers’ safety, and could face fines totaling nearly a half-million dollars.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the violations in a June 10 press release. According to the agency, the contractors — Vordonia Contracting and Supplies/Alma Realty Corp. of Long Island City, Masonry Services of Brooklyn and North Eastern Precast of Fultonville, N.Y. — allowed employees to work dangerously close to high-voltage power lines.
The contractors are working on Sun Valley, an apartment and retail complex at the corner of Sunrise Highway and Rockaway Avenue. When it is completed, the building will have stores on the first floor, beneath four stories of apartments.
According to OSHA, workers were doing concrete work and operating cranes near 13,200-volt overhead power lines. The agency stated that contractors ignored several cease-and-desist orders from the Long Island Power Authority.
Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA’s Long Island director, said that the agency’s standards prohibit work near live power lines. “Their workers should never have been placed in harm’s way,” Ciuffo said. “They were fortunate not to be electrocuted.”
In one instance in December, workers were constructing a concrete block wall on the third floor at the northeast corner of the building with live power lines just four inches above their heads, OSHA reported.
The contractors were each issued violations for failing to mark the power lines. Additional violations were issued for failing to train workers on electrocution hazards, not checking to see whether the lines were energized and unsafe crane operating procedures.
Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesman for OSHA, said that an inspection of the site began on Dec. 1, after representatives of the Long Island regional office noticed that employees were vulnerable to potential falls. Fitzgerald said that OSHA frequently checks on active projects for these hazards because falls are the most common cause of on-the-job deaths.
Also in December, the Long Island Power Authority notified OSHA about possible electrical hazards at the site.
Vordonia, which OSHA listed as the general contractor for the project, was issued three citations and faces a fine of $145,530. Masonry Services was issued 13 citations and is being fined $181,280, while North Eastern Precast was hit with 12 citations with fines totaling $138,600.
The contractors can contest the violations. Jonathan Farrell, a Mineola attorney handling the case for Vordonia, said that is the route the company will likely take, and emphasized that the complaints are only allegations.
“Vordonia and Alma vehemently dispute the accuracy of the allegations themselves,” Farrell said. “Vordonia, Alma and the other companies are entitled to present their side of the story to an independent judge, who will ultimately determine what is true and accurate, and what is not.”
He said that the companies also dispute the labeling of the violations as “willful” or “serious,” and called the proposed fines excessive.
The alleged incidents did not involve any employees of Vordonia or Alma, Farrell explained. “Is it also important to remember there were no accidents or injuries involved on the project,” he said, “in contrast to the dire tone of the press release.”
He added that the companies would work with OSHA to ensure the safest possible workplaces moving forward.
“Worker safety is paramount,” said Mike Sullivan, an attorney for the Alma Realty Corp. “They have the expectation that the rules will always be followed.”