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5 Firms Fined Over Deadly Collapse

Friday, April 12, 2013

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Serious federal safety violations with penalties totaling more than $38,000 have been levied against five companies involved in the construction of a Florida college parking garage that collapsed last October, killing four workers.

The five-story, nearly completed Miami-Dade University West Campus parking garage in Doral, FL, was not erected in accordance with construction documents, and engineering inspections weren’t fully carried out, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which issued the citations.

Miami Dade Fire Rescue
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

Four workers were killed when a nearly completed parking garage in Doral, FL, toppled level by level on Oct. 10, 2012. OSHA has issued safety violations to five companies responsible for its construction.

Investigators discovered missing welds and grout in some support columns of the structure, exposing workers to the hazard of being struck by and caught in between collapsing precast structure components, according to the agency.

The companies cited were Ajax Building Corp.; Coreslab Structures (Miami) Inc.; Solar Erectors U.S. Inc.; Florida Lemark Corp.; and MEP Structural Engineering and Inspections Inc.

OSHA has classified the six violations issued in the case as serious, according to the citations issued Monday (April 8).

A serious infraction, which carries a maximum penalty of $7,000, is the failure to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”

The Deadly Collapse

A portion of the parking garage collapsed level by level on Oct. 10, 2012, claiming the lives of Jose Calderon, Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, Samuel Perez, and Robert Budhoo and injuring at least nine others.

It took rescuers more than a week to recover Budhoo’s body, as the site was deemed too unstable, reports relate.

Federal safety authorities began their investigation immediately after the collapse.

No students were injured in the collapse. As many as 17 workers—including painters, welders, and electricians—were working on the premises that day, reports indicated.

The $22.5 million dollar parking garage featured 1,855 parking spaces and a lower level with classroom and office space. It was designed by Harvard Jolly Architects and was set to be completed in December 2012.

parking garage
Ajax Building Corp.

The $22.5 million dollar parking garage, featuring 1,855 parking spaces and a lower level with classroom and office space, was to be completed in December 2012.

Miami-Dade College officials have yet to decide whether to salvage and rebuild the garage, according to reports.

General Contractor Cited

OSHA hit Ajax Building Corp., the general contractor on the project, with a $6,300 proposed fine for “not ensuring the parking garage structure was inspected and erected in accordance with instructions provided in project drawings, precast manufacturer’s drawings and the erectors procedures,” according to the citation.

A spokesperson for the 54-year-old construction company sent this statement to D+D News via e-mail Thursday (April 11) morning.

“The OSHA review of the October 2012 construction accident is still underway. Ajax continues to actively cooperate with OSHA in its review through the informal conference process, and out of respect for that process we will reserve any comment until the review is concluded.”

Ajax Building has no previous record of OSHA violations, according to the agency’s online database.

In the days following the collapse, Ajax president William Byrne told members of the media that a crane had bumped a column before the garage toppled.

Structure Erection Issues, Subs Cited

Coreslab Structures (Miami) Inc., which provided the precast concrete and designed the precast structure, was cited for not ensuring proper erection. OSHA proposed a $7,000 fine against the company for the alleged infraction.

Coreslab Structures, headquartered in Stoney Creek, Ontario, operates 18 precast/prestressed concrete production facilities and stands as a major supplier in the structural, architectural and hollow-core markets in both Canada and the United States.

Miami Dade College Garage
Ajax Building Corp.

OSHA cited the general contractor and subcontractors for not ensuring proper erection of the five-story structure.

The company has recently made headlines for its ties to another deadly structural collapse in Elliot Lake, Canada. The company made the precast hollow concrete slabs three decades ago that fell last June at the Algo Center Mall.

Coreslab’s vice president has testified at a public inquiry into the cause of the collapse.

An OSHA database search of Coreslab (Miami) yielded 47 past safety violations since 2003, including wiring method hazards, respiratory protection, and crane operation.

Missing Welds, Unbraced Columns

Solar Erectors U.S. Inc., of Medley, FL, reportedly a subsidiary of Coreslab, was cited for two alleged violations in the Florida garage collapse, each carrying $6,930 in proposed fines. The company was cited for:

  • Not performing all the required welds and ensuring all the columns were properly grouted; and
  • Unbraced columns in the north-south direction.

The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

In November 2012, Solar Erectors was fined $9,800 (reduced to $6,860) for one serious and one other-than-serious violation involving aerial lift safety and fall protection, according to OSHA’s database.

Grout Missing

The project’s grouting contractor, Florida Lemark Corp., based in Doral, was also hit with a federal safety violation, carrying a $6,300 fine, for failing to grout structural “columns B-3 and A-3.3,” according to the federal agency.

The company did not respond to a request for comment on the citation.

Florida Lemark’s record with OSHA includes violations classified as other-than-serious from January 2011, carrying total penalties of $6,300, for safety training. The violations and fines were confirmed in an Administrative Law Judge decision, according to OSHA.

Inspections Not Performed

OSHA also cited MEP Structural Engineering and Inspections Inc. in the parking structure collapse and proposed a $4,900 penalty for failing to “conduct inspections of 18 columns” on the project, according to the citation.

The firm did not respond to a request for comment.

A search for past OSHA violations issued against the company did not yield results.

Lawsuits Could Cost More

Families of the deceased workers have initiated lawsuits against several of the companies involved, seeking millions of dollars in damages, according to reports.

rescue workers
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials combed through the debris in search of workers. Four were killed in the collapse; nine others were injured.

"I think this shows what we've been saying all along: that this was an accident waiting to happen. Literally, a death trap," according to Ervin Gonzalez, an attorney who represents the families of two dead workers and one worker who was injured.

Gonzalez told the Associated Press that evidence gathered so far showed the accident probably stemmed from a rush to finish the project.

The companies have 15 days from the receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

   

Tagged categories: Citations; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Parking Garages; Regulations

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