A home improvement contractor from Saco pleaded not guilty Monday to manslaughter charges in the death of a worker who fell from a Portland roof in December.

Shawn Purvis stands in court during his arraignment on the charge of workplace manslaughter in the death of a worker who fell from the roof of a house on Munjoy Hill in December. Staff photo by Jill Brady

Shawn D. Purvis, the 44-year-old owner of Purvis Home Improvement in Scarborough, was indicted in April on 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 previously.

Police said Loignon fell from the third-story roof of a home on Munjoy Hill about 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 13, and died at Maine Medical Center a short time later. He was not wearing a safety harness.

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.

The previous incident happened in 1991 in York County. If Purvis is convicted on the manslaughter charge, a Class A felony, he faces as much as 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Purvis will remain free on personal recognizance while awaiting trial but will have to be booked and released from the Cumberland County Jail before Friday.

His appearance before Judge Thomas Warren in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court lasted only a few moments, and Purvis spoke only to acknowledge the charges against him and to enter his plea.

The state requested conditions of bail, but Purvis, through his attorney, agreed to one and reserved the right to argue later on the others.

Purvis agreed to turn over a list of workers present at job sites that were active within the last week, and to also list the location of upcoming job sites.

Alan Loignon II Photo courtesy of the family

But Purvis’s attorney, Thomas Hallett, objected to other proposed conditions, including that Purvis obtain and prove he has worker’s compensation insurance, and that he comply with all regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Hallett and Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin agreed to reserve arguments over those conditions until a later date.

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 instead hires independent subcontractors, 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 has refused to pay the roughly $44,000 in fines the safety agency has tried to levy against him.

“Every single day, I show up at the job site … and I tell them, please, be safe, everything you need is here,” Purvis said in a previous interview. “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.”

But the Maine Department of Labor and a roofing industry group say Purvis is mistaken.

Under federal OSHA guidelines, any contractor whose worker is exposed to a drop of more than 6 feet where there is no guardrail is required to make sure workers use fall protection, whether by personal safety harnesses, catch nets or other fall-arresting systems.

Workers from Purvis Home Improvement of Scarborough were back on the job at a home on Munjoy Hill in Portland the day after a worker died in a fall from the roof in December. Press Herald photo by Ben McCanna

The National Roofing Legal Resource Center also advises its members that even if they classify their workers as subcontractors, the person or entity that controls a job site is still responsible to ensure workers on the job follow guidelines.

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


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