Contractor’s defense in fatal fall: Victim was a subcontractor, not an employee
Dead worker was contractor's half-brother
A Maine contractor who was indicted on manslaughter charges after the death of an employee – his own half-brother – maintains that he is not culpable because his workers are not his employees and he cannot compel them to use fall protection. Shawn D. Purvis, owner of Purvis Home Improvement Co. in Saco, pleaded not guilty to the charges in April. Purvis – whose company motto is, “Don’t be nervous. Call Purvis,” told news sources that 30-year-old Alan Loignon was actually self-employed when he fell to his death in December from the roof of a three-story house.
Loignon was Purvis’ half-brother. He was not using fall protection at the time of the fatal incident.
Purvis has used that defense in an ongoing battle with OSHA over $44,000 in penalties for violating fall protection standards.
Purvis is being charged with manslaughter and workplace manslaughter, under a rarely-used Maine law. Prosecutors allege that he intentionally or knowingly violated a federal occupational safety or health requirement to have fall protection, and that Loignon’s death was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of that failure. The workplace manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The manslaughter charge, a Class A felony, carries as much as 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Due to Purvis’ extensive history of violations, OSHA has cited him for 13 egregious willful violations related to the fatality – one for each exposed employee per job site – for failing to ensure the use of fall protection. The total: $1,792,726. Each egregious citation carries the maximum allowable penalty of $132,598. OSHA also cited Purvis for failing to provide fall protection training to his employees, and for exposing them to electrocution and eye hazards. OSHA has cited the owner for seven violations of fall protection requirements since September 2006.
OSHA inspectors found that Purvis knowingly failed to ensure the use of fall protection by his employees at the Portland worksite, and at a separate worksite in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.