Employees of Ken Stanley, doing business as A+ Roofing, were exposed to potentially fatal falls of up to 25 feet at a Somersworth job site due to their employer's failure to ensure the use of required fall protection, according to federal OSHA.

The Milton-based roofing contractor, who has been cited five times previously for the same hazard, faces $61,600 in proposed fines from OSHA.

OSHA opened its inspection on June 12, 2014. A concerned passer-by, who saw employees exposed to falls as they installed a roof on the Riverside Garage at 481 High St., contacted OSHA. The agency found eight employees working at heights of up to 25 feet without fall protection.

"There was nothing to prevent these workers from falling more than two stories to the ground below. They were at risk of death or disabling injuries. Their employer, with a history of similar violations, knew that the lack of fall protection violated workplace safety standards," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director for New Hampshire.

OSHA observed that employees working on the ground were not wearing head protection to safeguard against being struck by falling objects, another hazard for which OSHA had previously cited the business. As a result, OSHA cited the contactor for two willful violations, with $55,000 in fines.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. A+ Roofing was cited by OSHA five times between 2004 and 2013 for similar fall hazards at work sites in Northwood, North Conway and Keene; Kittery, Maine; and Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Three serious violations, with $6,600 in fines, were cited for additional hazards at the Somersworth job site. They included lack of fall protection training, no protection against eye injuries for employees using pneumatic nail guns and no fire extinguisher where containers of gasoline were present on-site. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Falls are the number one killer in construction work. To raise awareness of fall hazards and safeguards among workers, employers and the public, OSHA has created a Stop Falls Web page with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.

"A fall can occur in less time than it takes to finish this sentence. If you fall and there is no effective fall protection in place and in use, gravity will take over and your life or career could end in seconds," said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA's acting deputy regional administrator for New England. "Employers, it is imperative that you plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide your employees with the right equipment and train them to use it properly."

A+ Roofing has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.