OSHA Levies Fines in Fatal Construction Accident Case
The April death of a construction worker killed by a falling beam has led OSHA to fine the worker’s employer and to issue multiple health and safety citations. According to OSHA, the company overstressed the beam during a demolition project, resulting in the beam’s failure. A commission has been set up to review OSHA’s findings and determine whether the fines and citations will stand and what additional measures will be taken by the Illinois Tollway.
Berwyn Resident Killed in Beam Collapse
47-year-old Vicente Santoyo was killed while working for Omega Demolition Corp. on the demolition of the I-90 bridge near Touhy Avenue. According to OSHA’s report of the events, he was cutting the bracing between two beams when one of them fell on top of him. Santoyo was among numerous workers injured in the incident, but the only one who died. OSHA determined that Omega Demolition was at fault for the incident and issued a fine for over $152,000 in addition to multiple health and safety citations.
OSHA’s regional administrator claimed that the incident was preventable and that the federal safety standards which apply to the prevention of overstressing steel structures were violated. This violation was determined to be the direct contributing cause to the incident and Santoyo’s premature death. Omega Demolition executives were set to meet with OSHA to discuss whether they intend to accept the citations and fines or to challenge the rulings before an independent commission.
Omega Demolition Removed from Tollway Projects
The Illinois Tollway responded to the incident by suspending all projects involving Omega Demolition Corp. Different contractors have been brought in to complete the projects while the tollway awaits the results of OSHA’s investigation and the pending commission. While Omega Demolition is not allowed to work on any projects at the moment, the Illinois Tollway did state that the company would be able to place bids on projects in the future. A spokesman stated that any appropriate measures will be taken once OSHA completes its final report.
The general contractor for the project was also removed along with one of the engineer supervisors. Replacements have been brought in for this project, but no determination has been made concerning which contractors will be awarded projects going forward.
This latest incident is one of numerous reported concerns resulting in OSHA action in recent history. Since 2006, the company has received citations on nine different occasions, calling into question its safety practices and concern for its employees. Following Santoyo’s death, the company has been placed on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, allowing OSHA to conduct random inspections whenever there is a suspicion that the company is violating safety regulations.
Previous Fines Ineffective and Inadequate
Upon further review of the fines levied against Omega Demolition over the last ten years, our Chicago construction accident lawyers were shocked that while receiving nine citations, the company was only forced to pay $6,465 in fines. It is our opinion that this is completely unacceptable and does not serve as an effective deterrent for Omega Demolition and other companies to disregard safety regulations. OSHA needs to act more swiftly and with more teeth if there is any hope their actions will affect change in the industry.
It is for this reason that litigation is often the best way to ensure accountability when companies willingly place their workers in harm by cutting corners or ignoring safety laws and regulations.
Any time a worker is injured or killed in a preventable accident, the effects ripple across the lives of his or her family members and community. Construction accidents can render workers unable to return to work, which in turn threatens their ability to support those who depend on them. Medical expenses only add insult to injury for workers who are forced to struggle to make ends meet and when all of this transpires because of an employer’s irresponsible and selfish actions, it is reasonable to feel angry and betrayed.