General Contractor Fined for Safety and Health Violations

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has fined general contractor Michael Roberts Construction for serious safety and health violations related to its work at the 2935 Telegraph construction site, a non-union project that will hold a 162 residential-unit complex with 4,045 square feet of ground-floor retail.

A Cal/OSHA citation, issued on March 13, found that the contractor failed to protect workers at 2935 Telegraph from numerous fall hazards and fined Michael Roberts Construction $12,375. Stairways did not have railings “…on all landings in all stairways and on every floor,” according to the safety agency report. In addition to the lack of stairway protection, the contractor failed to make sure railings were provided on a second floor overseeing a courtyard facing 29th Street. Michael Roberts Construction also failed to ensure employees of a subcontractor working near the courtyard were using proper fall arrests and restraints. According to the report, the subcontractor's employees "were observed working at the edge of the second level with a fall distance in excess of 13 feet, exposing them to a serious fall hazard." Cal/OSHA deemed these violations "serious." 

In addition to the fall hazards, Michael Roberts Construction failed to monitor a subcontractor’s use of a gas-powered paint sprayer, which exposed workers to carbon monoxide in confined spaces.

Eric Haynes, a compliance officer and business development representative for Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104, was the person who notified Cal/OSHA of the violations at 2935 Telegraph. As a union compliance officer, he is responsible for making sure that project sites comply with labor and safety standards. While 2935 Telegraph is not a union project, a superintendent for Michael Roberts Construction had given Haynes and his colleagues access to the site to try to review worker safety standards. 

The superintendent who gave Haynes access was replaced, and when Haynes returned to 2935 Telegraph for further site visits, he began to notice safety issues. When he tried to inform the new superintendent of the issues, Haynes says the superintendent told him “they had none,” and that Haynes and his union colleagues were no longer welcome at the construction site. Haynes gave the superintendent a week to correct the issues he saw, but when Michael Roberts Construction didn't fix the issues, he informed Cal/OSHA.

Not all of Hayne’s concerns were addressed. In his report to Cal/OSHA, Haynes claimed 2935 Telegraph had “scaffolding that does not have toeboards,” an “absence of marked emergency exits,” “hallways with insufficient illumination,” “unguarded wall and floor openings,” as well as debris piling up in work areas and access to exits that were obstructed. Cal/OSHA could not find these potential violations to be valid at the time of its inspection.

Haynes had spoken with the Cal/OSHA inspector before the inspector made a visit to 2935 Telegraph. “I was told that when they [Cal/OSHA] make their visit, that unless personnel are in direct danger by the issues I had found, that they could only make a suggestion to make sure they are corrected,” Haynes said. If Haynes had provided inspectors photos of people in direct danger where he found the issues not cited, then Cal/OSHA could have cited Michael Roberts Construction on everything, Haynes said.

2935 Telegraph Avenue is funded by Madison Park Financial Corporation. Michael Roberts Construction was allowed to appeal its fines within 15 working days of the receipt of its citations.

The construction industry has more workplace deaths than any other industry. According to the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), one out of every five worker deaths occurs at a construction job.

If you know of any other construction projects in Oakland failing to provide basic safety standards for workers, please let the Conduit know at

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  • Sam Felsing
    published this page in Archive News 2018-04-06 09:37:47 -0700