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Skurka Right, Dyster Wrong on Violations at Buffalo Ave., Lewiston Road Projects

Was Jeffrey Skurka fired for safety sake.

Niagara Falls City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka was fired shortly after Mayor Paul Dyster ordered him to stay away from two major road construction projects in the city: the Buffalo Avenue and Lewiston Road reconstruction projects.

Skurka claimed at the time in an exclusive interview with the Reporter that he had been fired for holding the contractors to specifications in their contracts including safety procedures established by the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) even though these resulted in additional costs.

The contractors balked and threatened Mayor Paul Dyster that if he didn’t remove Skurka from the job they would walk off.

Dyster took Skurka off the job but not before, Skurka called OSHA and a surprise inspection was made of the work site on Lewiston Road on March 7.

Skurka had said that trenches dug to lay water and sewer lines were too deep to be safe, had water in the bottom and only one means of egress.

All three are serious violations of OSHA regulations.

Paul Marinaccio, president of Accadia Site Contracting, Inc., said it was all nonsense.

"Skurka is crazy," he said at the time. "He doesn’t know a damn thing about engineering…. The trenches are… five feet deep."

In any event the results of the OSHA surprise visit are in.

OSHA announced last week that it plans to levy $84,000 in fines to Accadia Site Contracting Inc., for their "cave-in hazard" at Lewiston Road work site claiming "willful and serious excavation safety violations."

"On March 7, OSHA found workers in a 7-foot deep vertical-walled excavation that lacked protection to prevent wall cave-ins, and a ladder every 25 feet to facilitate a swift and safe exit from the excavation. Moreover, 8 inches of water accumulated in the excavation’s bottom, increasing the likelihood of a collapse," their news announcement said.

“An unprotected excavation can turn into a grave in seconds, crushing and burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have an opportunity to react or escape,” said Arthur Dube, OSHA’s area director in Buffalo. “These workers were fortunate—not lucky, because workplace safety must never be dependent on luck—that they were not injured or killed.”

OSHA added that Accadia acted with "plain indifference to worker safety and health."

Accadia may contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Marinaccio told the Reporter before he had learned the result of the OSHA inspection, "If OSHA fines me, I will fight them. I have not had OSHA on one of my jobs in 25 years and I have never had an accident, ever. I believe in safety. Nobody ever got injured on one of my jobs, ever. I have never had a man injured on one of my jobs."

Meantime, Skurka was taken off the job for demanding safety protocol be followed and when contacted by the Reporter this week, he said on the advice of his attorneys he cannot make a comment.

This translates to us as there will be a thumping big lawsuit against the city for his termination.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

May 28, 2013