OSHA Complaint Filed Against Plymouth, MA Construction Company
The BOJ Construction (Plymouth, Mass.) website is simple and replete with pictures of gorgeous woodwork and impressive commercial projects. Those who’ve used BOJ say that they are highly skilled and keep their commitments.
However, BOJ was reportedly under federal investigation by OSHA for potentially violating child labor laws. In a report by Fox News you can see children who certainly look under the age of sixteen working and running through an active construction site. Sixteen is minimum legal age for workers on a construction site in Massachusetts.
The construction site is located in downtown Plymouth, Mass., behind the Common Sense general store and around the corner from the Blue Blinds Bakery. BOJ Construction, Common Sense and Blue Blinds Bakery are all companies owned by the religious group Twelve Tribes. Twelve Tribes currently has seventy-seven properties across the world, listed on their website; all businesses or housing the group owns, including BOJ Construction.
The group has a long history of controversy since its inception in 1972 in Chattanooga, TN. Its views regarding race, women and children have come under scrutiny more than once by the general public, and have led to a handful of investigations- especially with regard to child abuse and child labor.
BOJ has had four serious violations since 2013, with citations for lack of fall protection, eye and face protection, preparatory operations and fire protection, according to the OSHA.gov website. This most recent complaint of child labor however has been listed as closed on the OSHA website. A call to the South Boston OSHA office revealed that the investigator is out sick, and further information regarding the case is not available until his return.
The Twelve Tribes organization is not new to child labor allegations: New York State fined two Twelve Tribes businesses for child labor law violations in 2001. This prompted them to lose two lucrative contracts, one with Estée Lauder, and the other with Robert Redford’s furniture catalog company, Sundance.
BOJ and Twelve Tribe’s other businesses do not technically employ its workers as they are all part of the religious group and volunteer their time as part of their religious beliefs. BOJ supervisor Brian Johnson denies that BOJ employs any children, and when asked to explain what was going on at the construction site said “You’d have to ask their parents”.
It is possible that the OSHA case was closed due to the volunteer status of both the adults and children on the construction site in Plymouth, Mass., however it is clear from the video that children were exposed to serious hazards. Volunteers are not covered under the OSH Act of 1970, but determining whether or not an employment relationship exists must be taken on a case by case basis.
Two very noticeable hazards were the child in the back of the excavator, which is classified as hoisting equipment and required under Massachusetts law to be operated only by a licensed operator; and the young person walking through the construction site with what looks like a giant hole in the top of the hard hat he is carrying and not wearing. A quick review of the video certainly raises a lot of concerns as to the safety of the children, as well as adults, on the site.
Despite the volunteer basis of the work being performed, the situation clearly deserves further investigation. While OSHA may not be the governing authority, it seems likely that another agency will pick up the investigation where they have left off. In the meantime, it looks like the site is quiet and cleared out-for now.