The owner of a Scarborough home improvement company who has a long history of workplace safety violations has been charged with workplace manslaughter in the death of a roofer who was not wearing federally required fall protection when he fell to his death from a roof at a house on Munjoy Hill in December, according to an indictment released Wednesday.

But the Saco-based contractor, Shawn D. Purvis, 44, said Wednesday that although he always provides federally approved safety gear at his job sites and encourages his roofers to use it, his workers are not his employees, but subcontractors, so he cannot force them to comply with federal standards.

Alan Loignon II

Purvis faces one count of manslaughter and one count of workplace manslaughter in the death of Alan Loignon, 30, according to court records. Loignon and Purvis are half-brothers and have the same father, Purvis said.

Purvis said in a phone interview Wednesday that he had not been aware of the indictment.

The indictment, which does not include any supporting documentation or police reports, alleges Purvis 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. Purvis has been summonsed but his preliminary court date has not been set, said Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin.

The case is likely only the second time prosecutors in Maine have sought charges under the workplace manslaughter statute, which is a subsection of manslaughter and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If Purvis is convicted on the manslaughter charge, a Class A felony, he will face as much as 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Under federal workplace safety laws, employers are required to provide safety equipment such as fall harnesses, or make accommodations to prevent falls, such as installing temporary handrails, when workers are at heights above a certain threshold.

But Purvis argued that he is not an employer, and while he encourages workers to use the extensive collection of safety gear he provides, he cannot force them to comply. Purvis said he has battled OSHA for a dozen years over this point, and he has refused to pay the roughly $44,000 in fines the safety agency has attempted to levy against him.

With the guidance of an attorney, Purvis said, he has been diligent in following state law that governs subcontractors. They are paid each day for their work, they supply some of their own tools, and he does not tell them how to do their job, Purvis said. In addition to buying nails and air compressors and shingles and gutters, Purvis said, he supplies them with a complement of safety equipment.

“Every single day, I show up at the job site … and I tell them, please, be safe, everything you need is here,” Purvis said. “I can’t sit there 24/7 and watch subcontractors. It’s either they’re going to wear (the safety gear) or they won’t. It’s like wearing a seat belt, it’s either you do it or you don’t.”

He added later: “I can supply everything to be OSHA approved, but I can’t sit there and watch these guys all day long. That’s their job. They’re self-employed.”

Purvis said that while his workers are busy installing roofs, he is typically bidding on other jobs, making sales and keeping his books, and he relies on the subcontractors to independently complete the work. Purvis said he was already distraught over the death of his brother, which has estranged him from Loignon’s wife, who blames him for her husband’s death.

The workplace manslaughter statute has been in effect since Sept. 30, 1989. The first prosecution, in 1991, occurred in York County when a grand jury there indicted a New Hampshire contracting firm in connection with the death of a 23-year-old man who was crushed to death while crews were overhauling the Route 1 bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery in 1989, according to a story by the Associated Press.

Portland police said Loignon fell from the third-story roof about 11:30 a.m. Dec. 13, and died at Maine Medical Center a short time later that day.

Purvis, whose company slogan is “Don’t be nervous, call Purvis,” has an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau, and has been accredited by the agency since 2003. Its website says that the owner is on site at every roofing job, and that the business is fully insured.

But the company also has a history of workplace safety violations, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces federal worker safety laws. According to federal records, since 2012, Purvis Home Improvement of Saco has been ordered to pay more than $44,000 in fines for failing to meet fall-protection safety standards.

According to public safety records available online, OSHA cited and fined Purvis during two inspections in 2012, one inspection in 2015, and a fourth inspection last year.

The most recent inspection – in February 2018 – recommended the largest monetary sanction of $24,390, but that case remains open and OSHA is awaiting payment of the fine, according to federal records.

The first fine came in April 2012, when inspectors found the company failed to provide fall prevention systems for workers on low-sloped roofs, and fined the company $2,000. That case is now closed.

Then in November 2012, OSHA again performed an inspection and found a different violation related to fall protection. The company was found to have failed to provide guardrails, personal fall-arresting systems or safety nets for employees working on steep roofs. That violation came with a $5,600 fine, and the case is now closed.

The third violation came three years later, in 2015, when once again, OSHA found Purvis to be out of compliance with fall-safety standards for workers on residential projects who are more than 6 feet off the ground, costing the company $10,000.

That regulation requires the company to either provide fall protection, or in cases where it is not feasible to provide systems such as guardrails, safety harnesses or netting, the company must have a plan in place to mitigate fall risk, according to OSHA’s standards.

Purvis was also found during that inspection to have violated a second standard that requires ladders to extend at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface they connect to, or be secured in place if they do not meet that requirement. That violation cost Purvis $2,200. According to the OSHA database, the $12,200 debt has been forwarded to collections.

In the latest inspection, from February 2018, Purvis was found in violation for the third time of fall-protection standards for workers on residential projects more than 6 feet off the ground, and was fined $21,341, according to federal records. An additional $3,049 fine was for Purvis’ failure to require a worker on an elevated boom or basket to wear a safety belt that is then attached via a lanyard to the basket to prevent catastrophic injury in the event of a fall.

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