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UPDATE: OSHA Fines and a Lawsuit at Texas A&M Over Construction Accidents

In what looks to many like a slap on the wrist, the feds are fining two companies involved in last year's collapse at the Texas A&M Equine Complex construction site that left four workers injured.  The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports that Ramco Erectors, a company based in Houston, was fined a little more than $40,000 for seven safety violations discovered by OHSA inspectors.  The general contractor, Gamma Construction, has also been hit with less than $7,000 in fines.  From the article:

“The injured – all of whom recovered from their injuries – were working on a 300-foot barn that was under construction as part of the $80 million Equine Complex when it collapsed due to a failure in structural stability, according to the OSHA citations.

“Specifically, the steel frame structure fell when a worker released a rafter from a crane before proper bracing was completed, according to a citation issued to Ramco Erectors for failing to instruct employees on unsafe conditions.  Once the rafter was let go, ‘the building racked and fell to the ground,’ according to OSHA documents.

“Additionally, Ramco Erectors was cited for not providing a safe work environment ‘free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.’  The subcontractor also was fined for not inspecting rigging equipment material according to standards, which led to a defective safety latch for a sling used to lift rafters going unnoticed, according to citation documents.  Other citations issued to Ramco Erectors were for failing to provide a site-specific erection plan; failing to ensure fall protection components and wire rope clips used for rigging were of the drop-forged steel type; and failing to remove defective hooks.

“Gamma Construction received a citation for failure to maintain structural stability by not replacing critical rigging materials.”

Meantime, an accident that turned deadly in the $450 million Kyle Field renovation has drawn a lawsuit from a family looking for a jury trial and $1 million in compensation.  Culture Map in Houston obtained the court documents that describe a “horrific scene.”  From Culture Map:

“Court documents filed in Harris County on [December 23] describe a horrific scene on December 3 as 28-year-old Angel Garcia assisted with the demolition of a spiral pedestrian ramp at the northeast corner of the stadium.  Stationed on the fourth story of the ramp, Garcia was using a small Caterpillar loader to catch concrete debris from overhead demo work.  Just before noon, a large piece of concrete broke free from a column and toppled into the machine's steel bucket.  The concrete load was too heavy for the Caterpillar, which struggled to gain control of the debris before plummeting over the edge of the ramp.  Garcia was ejected from the machine as it dropped, landing back first on a pile of rubble below.  The father of two survived the fall but died from his injuries hours later at St. Joseph's Hospital in Bryan.  An investigation led by federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is underway, with official conclusions expected by spring 2014.”

These two high-profile accidents have prompted some to start asking why Texas A&M, as the owner, doesn't demand better safety training and precautions on its projects.  It is reminiscent of the terrible conditions we uncovered on a University of Texas at Austin project where workers were misclassified, denied water breaks in triple-digit heat and certainly had no workers' comp insurance.

Your thoughts are welcome in the comments.

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