Federal, state safety agencies won’t investigate Richmond ladder accident

Posted July 29, 2013, at 5:06 p.m.
Last modified July 29, 2013, at 5:51 p.m.

RICHMOND, Maine — Both the federal Occupational Health and Safety Agency and Maine Department of Labor say they have no jurisdiction over and will not investigate a July 22 incident in which two men fell from ladders on a construction site, leaving one man possibly paralyzed.

David Tremblay, 50, of Leeds was listed in fair condition Monday at Central Maine Medical Center, having been flown there by LifeFlight after falling from a ladder 20 to 25 feet high.

Tremblay was working with Trent Labreck, 30, of Vassalboro, who was less seriously injured, police said at the time. A CMMC spokeswoman said Monday that the hospital had been instructed by Labreck’s family not to release any information about his condition.

On Monday, Richmond police Sgt. Adam Garland said he understood Tremblay might be paralyzed as a result of injuries suffered when he fell from a ladder while working at a freestanding garage in Richmond.

Immediately after the accident, Richmond police said the two men worked for Labreck’s brother Troy Labreck. But Bill Coffin, area director for OSHA, said Monday that the three men actually worked as partners, without any employer-employee relationship.

Coffin said that his agency has no jurisdiction in the matter because no employer-employee relationship existed among the men.

“There were three men on the job, and if one got a job, they split it three ways,” Coffin said. “The third man was the one who got the job, and as soon as he got the job, he called the other two. One guy brings the ladders, another brings the saw.”

“Federal OSHA only protects employees,” he said. “If there are no employees, we have nothing to inspect.”

In fact, Coffin said, no federal agency or department has jurisdiction over the safety and health aspects of the incident.

The state doesn’t have jurisdiction either, according to Maine Department of Labor spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz, because no public entity was involved.

“This is exactly the problem we have with worker misclassification and independent contractor standards,” she said. “It’s a good example of where ambiguity allows these people to put themselves in situations where they may not have workers’ comp coverage or may not carry adequate insurance … they put themselves at risk for exactly this kind of freak accident.”

The two men fell from separate ladders while hanging Tyvek weatherstripping at a construction site on Pleasant Pond Farm Road, Richmond Police Chief Scott MacMaster said at the time. He said it was unclear how the accident occurred, but that information about the incident had been forwarded to OSHA.

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