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West Michigan Construction Company Owner Charged in Employee’s Death

Hans Hansen, ThinkStock

Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that the Attorney General’s Criminal Division has filed felony charges against a 40-year-old Sparta construction firm owner from Holland in connection with the July 2012 death of an employee.

Joe Novak is president and Owner of Black River Builders, LLC, of Sparta, and has been charged with one count of Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) Violation Causing Death in connection with the death of 38-year-old Brian Tarachanowicz on July 2, 2012.

Tarachanowicz, a subcontractor with Black River Builders, fell more than 26 feet to his death while removing an old roof deck at Federal-Mogul Corp. in Sparta on July 2, 2012.  Tarachanowicz fell through a weak spot in the roof onto concrete and was not wearing safety equipment.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A MIOSHA investigation of the incident alleged that Mr. Tarachanowicz and others were not using fall protection equipment even though a section of the old deck had been removed and they were exposed to a 26′ 1″ fall.  The investigation also alleged that there was no engineering survey or daily inspections conducted to detect hazards and unsafe conditions during the progress of the demolition work by Black River Builders and that there also was no inspection of the wooden deck working surface for the project.

MIOSHA inspected Black River Builders nine times since 2007 and cited them with several serious violations including a 2008 Serious Violation for lack of fall protection gear.

The felony charge against Novak carries a one year maximum penalty and was filed in the 63rd Circuit Court in Kent County.  Novak is expected to surrender to authorities and will be arraigned on the charge today.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.


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