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OSHA Cites Contractor in Ballpark Death

Friday, April 11, 2014

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A Minnesota-based heavy civil contractor faces more than $50,000 in fines in the wake of a demolition accident that killed a worker last September.

Johnny Valek, 61 of Plymouth, MN, was killed Sept. 10 while working at the site of the new St. Paul Saints ballpark in downtown St. Paul, according to reports.

The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Rachel Contracting, Valek’s employer, for three serious violations, carrying proposed fines of $51,650, stemming from the accident, according to a review of OSHA records.

Family photo via Star Tribune

Johnny Valek, 61, was killed in September 2013 when a portion of a building he was helping to demolish crushed him.

The citation documents in this case are not public, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 13.39.

Rachel Contracting, based in St. Michael, MN, did not wish to comment on the citations. However, the company has contested the fines.

The Accident

Valek was killed when a 10-by-30-foot concrete portion of a two-story building under demolition crashed down on the cab of his backhoe, according to the Star Tribune, citing authorities.

It took rescuers nearly five hours to recover his body from the rubble, the newspaper said.

Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard told local media that the demolition site’s terrain was “treacherous for rescue.”

The crew had been clearing the site of an old 650,000-square-foot Diamond Products' factory for the ballpark.


Rachel Contracting was performing excavation work for the ballpark's design/build contractor, Ryan Companies.

Rachel Contracting was performing excavation work for Ryan Companies, the design/build contractor on the $43.8 million dollar stadium.

Neither Rachel Contracting nor Ryan Companies has a record of past safety violations, according to OSHA.

Citation Summary, Fines

According to OSHA’s database, Rachel Contracting allegedly failed to have a competent person conduct continuing inspections during the demolition project in order to detect hazards.

The agency proposed a $25,000 fine for the alleged violation.

The contractor was also accused of not insuring that structural or load-supporting members on any floor weren't removed until all stories above the floor had been demolished or removed. Another $25,000 was proposed for that violation.

Rachel Contracting also allegedly violated a regulation that requires an engineering survey before the start of demolition to determine the condition of the framing, floors, and walls, as well as the possibility of unplanned collapse of any portion of the structure.

Minnesota’s OSHA hit the company with a $1,650 fine for that alleged violation.

Ryan Companies was not cited in the case, according to OSHA’s records.

A Tough Job

Following the incident, the Star Tribune reported that Valek had previously told his younger brother that the demolition work at the site was some of the toughest he had encountered in his more than 25 years in construction.

Valek was said to have specifically commented on the weight of the concrete and the thickness of the walls of the building under demolition, the report said.

Saints Ballpark

The new Saints stadium is set for completion in March 2015.

The demolition was completed Dec. 6, 2013. Construction began April 7.

The Saints are a non-MLB pro team that belongs to the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.

The Saints stadium, designed by Ryan Companies' design team, Julie Snow Architects and AECOM, is set for completion in March 2015. It features elements of the Lowertown area's historic architecture, including timber, blackened steel and load-bearing masonry.


Tagged categories: Citations; Demolition; Enforcement; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

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