GREENE — Federal officials say a Greene-based roofing contractor is a “serial violator” of safety laws and needs to be put in jail if he continues to ignore them and the more than $400,000 in fines levied against him since 2000.

Owner Stephen Lessard said Wednesday that he has been unfairly targeted by his competitors who file complaints with federal safety officials in an effort to put him out of business.

The U.S. Department of Labor has asked a Boston federal appeals court to hold Lessard, who owns Lessard Roofing & Siding Inc. and Lessard Brothers Construction Inc., in civil contempt for defying a 2011 court order to correct safety violations and not paying $404,000 in fines and interest.

From 2000 to 2011, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Lessard for safety violations 11 times at 11 work sites in Maine, most recently at one in Lewiston, according to the DOL. Lessard’s continued failure to respond to the infractions and citations prompted the contempt request to the court.

“This is scofflaw behavior by a serial violator who demonstrates contempt, not only for the law and the U.S. Court of Appeals, but for the safety and lives of his employees,” Maryann Medeiros, OSHA’s area director in Maine, said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

“What’s especially disturbing is that many of the violations involve fall hazards, which are the primary cause of death in construction work, the industry in which Mr. Lessard and his companies operate,” she said.

Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor for New England, said Lessard could be jailed if he continues to ignore the law and the court. “Seeking a contempt order, such as this, is a stringent and infrequent action, but one that is more than warranted in this case.”

According to the DOL, as recently as January, OSHA cited Lessard for “egregious willful, repeated and serious violations for fall-related hazards” at a Lewiston work site and fined him $287,000.

Lessard said he hasn’t paid the fines because he can’t afford them.

“I don’t make that kind of money,” he said.

His small contracting business nets only about $60,000 a year, he said.

Lessard said he doesn’t understand why OSHA doesn’t focus on the large commercial contractors who employ many more workers than the half-dozen who work for him and who can afford to pay the fines OSHA imposes.

“They just need to separate it from big business and residential,” he said. “The way they’ve got it set up just doesn’t work.”

Moreover, Lessard said his is one of the few contracting companies that actually does use harnesses — when they’re needed. But OSHA inspectors will simply wait to snap their pictures of violations the moment a worker unclips his rope from his harness to take a break or will take the picture before the worker clips onto the rope to start working, he said.

“We were making the attempt to have safety,” Lessard said. His company has even fired a worker for not taking necessary safety precautions.

In the 27 years he’s been in business, Lessard said none of his workers has sustained an injury from falling. 

Lessard said he plans to call OSHA to report the contractors he believes have been targeting him, every time he sees one of their workers not wearing a safety harness tied to a rope.

“If I have to comply, they’ll have to comply,” he said. “You did it to yourself.”

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