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Five Companies Cited for Worker Fatality at Welsh Auditorium
Sept. 25, 2003 - Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services (CIS) Director David C. Hollister today announced the conclusion of the investigation of a fatal work accident at Welsh Auditorium with MIOSHA citations and penalties against five companies totaling $69,500. The CIS Bureau of Safety and Regulation (BSR) is responsible for administering the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA).
On June 18, 2003, Erhardt Construction employee Adam Petruska was buried under a mass of demolition debris and fatally injured. At that time, employees from five different companies were working on the demolition of Welsh Auditorium, as part of an expansion and renovation project. The construction manager for the project was Erhardt/Hunt, Joint Venture. The other four companies were: Erhardt Construction; Hunt Construction, Inc.; Pitsch Companies, Inc.; and Allied Electric.
"Demolition work is extremely hazardous and there are clear-cut MIOSHA safeguards to protect these workers," said Director Hollister. "It is very apparent from our investigation that there was a tragic lack of communication between Erhardt/Hunt Joint Venture and the other employers, which resulted in the placement of workers in a zone of danger."
MIOSHA Construction Safety Standard, Part 20., Demolition, covers the demolition of structures and the safeguarding of the employees in these operations. The standard specifically requires an employer to make daily inspections to detect hazards and unsafe conditions, and to ensure employees are not permitted to work where hazards exist. It also requires employers to allow only those employees necessary to the operation of mechanical demolition equipment in the demolition area; and that inside the structure, only a means of egress designated by the employer shall be used, and it shall be guarded to protect workers from falling debris.
A typical construction site involves many contractors and sub-contractors, and the Welsh Auditorium demolition project was no exception. On multi-employer sites, every employer has responsibility for the safety of all workers on the site, and more than one employer may be citable for the same condition.
"These five employers had no coordinated plan to protect the workers against the multiple dangers found at this demolition site," said BSR Director Doug Kalinowski. "Employers must exert all due diligence to identify hazards, whatever the cause, and take all necessary measures to prevent these types of accidents to their workers."
In preparation for the implosion of the auditorium, Pitsch Companies employees were mechanically tearing out balconies, removing seating and fixtures, and removing pre-cast concrete. They were also manually removing concrete blocks near the steel trusses, so explosives could be planted near the trusses. Two Caterpillar excavators were removing the debris, as well as doing some mechanical demolition.
Although the auditorium was being demolished, the lobby was to be saved. To protect the lobby, employees were building a temporary wall to separate the lobby from the auditorium. On the day of the fatal accident, an Erhardt supervisor directed two carpenters to finish construction of the wall, which was near an escalator stairwell.
The workers entered through an undesignated means of egress in the basement and walked up the escalator to their worksite. Because a wall encased the escalator area, the carpenters were not aware that demolition work was occurring on the floor above them. Nor were the demolition workers aware there were workers directly under their demolition site.
While one worker went to the basement to retrieve a tool, Petruska remained at the top of the escalator. At approximately 9:30 a.m., the accumulated demolition debris collapsed into the escalator stairwell. The remaining carpenter immediately notified his supervisor of the debris collapse and a search was initiated for Petruska. After 30 minutes, police and fire rescue were notified. More than 30 construction workers assisted police during the rescue attempt. With the help of a canine search dog, Petruska's body was located at about 6:30 p.m.
As a result of the accident investigation conducted by the MIOSHA Construction Safety Division, five companies received citations for alleged safety violations with total proposed penalties of $69,500. The classification and proposed penalties are as follows:
The companies have 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply or contest the violations and penalties.
> Welsh Auditorium Citations
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