Derry contractor facing nearly $235K in fines claims he's being 'targeted by OSHA'

Feb. 28—A Derry contractor is facing $234,741 in penalties for exposing workers to fall hazards, officials with the Department of Labor said Monday.

Inspectors with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) say they found evidence that Ridge Runner Construction exposed employees to falls of up to 20 feet while working at roofing job sites in both Salem and Merrimack.

The workers were installing shingles or performing other roofing work, and working on ladders that did not extend at least 3 feet above the roofs' edges for required stability, OSHA officials said in a news release.

The contractor "also failed to provide effective fall protection training, ensure proper anchorage for lifelines and have a competent person inspect both worksites to identify and correct hazards," OSHA said in a news release.

Additional violations at the Salem jobsite allegedly include lack of eye and face protection for employees working with nail guns and fire hazards from an improper gasoline container.

Robert Contraros, owner of Ridge Runner Construction, said Tuesday he takes safety "very seriously," claiming he has "more safety precautions, equipment, and training than anyone else I know in the construction field."

"For reasons unknown, I am being targeted by OSHA," Contraros wrote in an email. "I have had no job site accidents or injuries in my entire construction career, yet OSHA came to three of my job sites in a three-week period in the fall of last year. I know companies that have been in business for 30+ years and have never seen an OSHA officer on their job site. I can't be that lucky."

OSHA cited Ridge Runner Construction for willful, repeat and serious safety violations, carrying a total of $234,741 in proposed penalties. The company was previously cited by OSHA for fall-related hazards at worksites in North Reading and Peabody, Mass., in 2021 and 2017.

"This is OSHA trying to put a small company out of business with their outrageous fines and no equitable enforcement," Contraros said in an email. "$234,741 in fines is absolutely ridiculous and may ultimately eliminate a small business from an already shrinking market of tradespeople."

"Ridge Runner Construction's continued failure to safeguard its employees against potentially deadly and disabling hazards is disturbing," said OSHA Area Director Joseph LaRose Sr. "Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work, and employers must plan ahead, provide employees with effective tools and training, and conduct frequent inspections to ensure jobs are done safely."

Ridge Runner Construction LLC has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 986 construction workers died on the job in 2021, with 378 of those fatalities related to falls from elevation.