gavelA Maine roofing contractor's continued refusal to obey a federal court order to correct safety hazards and pay more than $400,000 in fines could find himself behind bars.

OSHA has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston to hold Stephen Lessard in civil contempt for defying a December 2011 court order to correct violations cited by the agency and pay $404,000 in fines and interest levied from 2000 to 2011.

Ignoring citations leads to court decree

During that time, his companies, Lessard Roofing & Siding Inc. and Lessard Brothers Construction Inc., both located in Greene, Maine, were cited for safety violations 11 times at 11 different work sites in Maine. Each time, Lessard did not respond and the citations turned into final orders, requiring him to provide OSHA with proof of correction and payment of the assessed fines. When he again refused to act, the department sought and obtained the court decree.

Lessard is "a serial violator"

"This is scofflaw behavior by a serial violator who demonstrates contempt — not only for the law and the U.S. Court of Appeals, but for the safety and lives of his employees," said Maryann Medeiros, OSHA's area director in Maine. "What's especially disturbing is that many of the violations involve fall hazards, which are the primary cause of death in construction work, the industry in which Mr. Lessard and his companies operate."

"We have asked the court to subject Mr. Lessard to strong sanctions, including incarceration if necessary, should he continue to flout the law and the court's earlier order," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor for New England. "Seeking a contempt order, such as this, is a stringent and infrequent action, but one that is more than warranted in this case."

Violations continue

Despite all this, Lessard continues to break the law. In January, OSHA cited him for egregious willful, repeated and serious violations for fall-related hazards at a Lewiston, Maine, work site and fined him $287,000.

Senior trial attorney Maureen Canavan of the Regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston will litigate the case on behalf of OSHA. The petition was filed by the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Solicitor's office in Washington, D.C.

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work.