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CO Plumbing Board Supervision Rule Successfully Challenged by Springer & Steinberg

Springer & Steinberg, P.C. in Denver recently helped protect a plumber’s business and reputation from a harsh Colorado State Plumbing Board penalty. The Board had disciplined the plumber for apparently violating a “line-of-sight” supervisory rule. But with the penalties so steep and the rule so vague, the plumber came to Attorney Craig Pankratz for help challenging the rule. Through an appellate case that went to the Colorado Court of Appeals, it was found that the “line-of-sight” requirement for supervising plumbers was impractical and overly vague, resulting in the client’s penalties being dismissed and a significant change to plumbing regulations throughout Colorado.

Details of the Appellate “Line-of-Sight” Rule Case

Michael Welch and his business, Confidence Plumbing Co., Inc., were penalized by the Colorado State Plumbing Board for apparently violating a vague supervisory rule on an Aurora job site in 2016. According to the Board, an apprentice plumber was using a soldering torch without a licensed plumber looking directly at him, which the Board said violated a “line-of-sight” safety rule. Welch was fined $2,300 and suffered a 5-year business license suspension as a result.

Welch came to Attorney Pankratz to appeal the Board’s decision because it was never mandated in any regulation that supervision must include direct line-of-sight of an apprentice. Instead, the rule says that “a licensed plumber [must] supervise apprentices at the job site.” At the time of the apparent violation, one of Welch’s apprentices was using a soldering torch in one home of a larger residential project and a supervising licensed plumber was elsewhere on the job site, but not in the same room as the apprentice. Despite the physical distance between the two plumbers, it is reasonable to assume the licensed plumber was still capable of providing necessary supervision and guidance as needed.

Keynotes of Attorney Pankratz’s argument against the vague supervisory rule:

  • There is no current Board definition of how large a job site can be before it is to be considered two or more job sites.
  • The rule to provide “direct supervision” was originally intended to apply to electricians, a profession notably different than plumbing.
  • No mention of “line-of-sight” requirements was made in supervisory rules.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules also did not require “line-of-sight” in any of its plumbing safety rules.
  • Licensed plumbers are allowed to supervise up to three apprentices per job site, which makes it impractical or illogical to assume line-of-sight supervision could always be exercised while the apprentices work.

With Attorney Pankratz’s compelling arguments, the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with his client and dismissed the harsh penalties of the Board. The interpretation of the “direct supervision” rule can be applied to future similar cases throughout Colorado. Plumbers in the state also can now work more confidently around a job site with apprentices, knowing that their supervisory duties are not so restrictive as to require them to have a constant line-of-sight of each apprentice while they work.

To get more information about this recent ruling, you can click here to view a full article from Colorado Politics. To learn more about Attorney Craig Pankratz and our business litigation practice here at Springer & Steinberg, P.C., please feel free to contact our firm at any time.

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