The family of a Maine roofer who died in a fall while working on a residential jobsite has filed a $2.5 million wrongful death lawsuit against the man's former employer, the Portland Press Herald reports. The family alleges Shawn Purvis, of Scarborough, Maine-based Purvis Home Improvements, discouraged the use of safety equipment that could have prevented the death of Alan Loignon.

Under federal workplace safety laws, employers must require their employees to use safety equipment such as fall harnesses, or make accommodations to prevent falls, such as installing temporary handrails or catch nets, when workers are exposed to unprotected drops of six feet or more.

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. He also has accrued $10,000 in fees and penalties.

Purvis also faces criminal charges in the death, and has pleaded not guilty to one count each of Class A manslaughter and Class C workplace manslaughter. Prosecutors allege that Purvis did not enforce standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that require employers to provide fall protection for any workers exposed to unprotected drops of 6 feet or more, and that Loignon’s death was a foreseeable result for which Purvis is responsible.

In addition to criminal charges, Purvis also faces a federal collection action on more than $54,000 in unpaid fines and fees for prior OSHA violations. The OSHA lawsuit alleges Purvis discouraged the use of safety equipment in order to finish roofing jobs faster.

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