June 17, 2024
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By Nicholas Biase

Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York and Jonathan Mellone of the DOL-OIG Northeast Region have confirmed that JOSE LEMA, also known as “Jose Lema Mizhirumbay”, the founder and CEO of ALJ Home Improvement Inc. a NY roofing company, has been charged with violating OSHA rules. According to reports, the incident resulted in one fatality (Victim-1), which occurred on 8 February 2022 at New Square. The complaint states that LEMA did not provide proper safety equipment to his employees, resulting in Victim-1 losing his life after falling from a construction building. He was arrested today at his Nanuet residence and is scheduled to appear in front of U.S. magistrate judge Victoria Reznik, White Plains Federal Court.

According to Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent in charge of the Office of Inspector General, it is their responsibility to investigate allegations of criminal conduct involving U.S. Department of Labor program. We will hold accountable those that pose a risk to the safety of workers as we continue our work with law-enforcement and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

LEMA dispatched four ALJ workers to New Square in New York on February 8, 2022. The victim was also wearing a harness. Unfortunately, he fell from the roof within 20-30 minutes after arriving on the Worksite. He landed approximately 30 feet below. The injuries he sustained were fatal. OSHA concluded from the investigation that ALJ did not take adequate steps to protect its employees against falls, by installing fall protection devices such as ropes, lanyards and anchors.

Victim-2, who slipped off the newly built three-story roof in Kiamesha Lake (New York), was the first ALJ fatality documented. The incident happened on or around February 27, 2019. He fell 35 feet and eventually succumbed from his injuries. OSHA conducted an investigation into this incident and issued various safety violations including failing to ensure that employees wore fall protection systems. ALJ then entered into an agreement with OSHA, agreeing to pay a fine. OSHA conducted six more investigations before Victim-1 died at a different worksite where similar safety violations had been observed.

Five more incidents occurred on five separate worksites in New York or New Jersey between February 2019, when Victim-2 died, and February 20,22 when Victim-1 dies. ALJ’s employees were still exposed to the fall hazards. OSHA issued a citation to ALJ because it failed to make sure its employees used fall protection devices. ALJ paid a fine in each of the cases.

Even after Victim-1’s death, the LEMA failed to provide protection to his workers and continued to violate OSHA regulations. On or around August 4, 2022, the ALJ employees worked on an 18 foot roof in Ho Ho Kus (New Jersey) without apparent fall protection. OSHA issued citations for the harnesses not being securely fastened to the roof.

OSHA has conducted eight investigations on ALJ sites over the past four years. The results of these investigations were 24 willful, 16 serious, and $2.3M in fines. Compliance Safety and Health Officials told LEMA his legal obligations to protect his workers during each investigation. LEMA admitted that, during a OSHA deposition, he was aware that workers on roofs higher than 6 feet tall were required to wear fall protection. However, he did not implement OSHA regulations despite previous inspections having resulted in citations.

LEMA (40), of Nanuet in New York was charged with violating OSHA standards for fall protection in residential construction. He is accused of failing to protect employees against fall hazards, resulting in injuries and even causing the death of an employee. This offense carries up to six months imprisonment and fines of $250,000.

The maximum penalty for the case is given here only for informational reasons, as the sentence of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney’s Office praised OSHA and the DOL-OIG Special Agents for their excellent work.

Margery Feinzig, Assistant U.S. attorney for White Plains Division of the Office, is prosecuting this case.

The defendant’s innocence is presumed until the case proves otherwise.

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