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CA Reopens Probe of 1st Stadium Death

Friday, October 25, 2013

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California labor officials are taking a rare second look at the first of two worker deaths that have occurred this year at the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium.

The California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) said Wednesday (Oct. 23) that it was reopening its investigation into the death of Donald White, 63, and had rescinded its "no violation" decision regarding White's employer, Schindler Elevator Corp.

Elevator Fatality

White, a certified elevator mechanic, was killed June 11 while working on a ladder in an elevator shaft at the stadium in Santa Clara. Authorities said he had been struck by an elevator counterweight.

Schindler Elevator, based in Morristown, NJ, is the North American arm of Switzerland-based Schindler Group, a leading global manufacturer of elevators, escalators and moving walks.

Donald White Edward Lake
Family photos

Cal/OSHA has reopened its investigation into the death of electrician Donald White (on the right, in photo at left), who was killed on the stadium project June 11. Edward Lake II (right photo) was killed on the same project Oct. 14.

Cal/OSHA notified Schindler of its decision to reopen the case on Oct. 14, the same day that another worker, Edward Erving Lake II, was killed on the stadium project.

Lake, 60, of Vacaville, CA, was crushed by a load of rebar that was being unloaded from his truck at the site. Lake was employed by Gerdau Ameristeel, a Tampa, FL-based steel producer.

Schindler Elevator did not immediately respond Thursday (Oct. 24) to a request for comment.

The 49ers' $1.2 billion stadium is due to open in 2014.

Questions Raised

Cal/OSHA, which is investigating both deaths, did not explain why it was reopening the White case.

The decision followed an internal review of the case in which "one of the experienced Cal/OSHA people raised questions," agency spokeswoman Erika Monterroza told the San Jose Mercury News.

Monterroza did not elaborate on the questions but added: "This does not happen on a regular basis."

Cal/OSHA has six months, until Dec. 11, to complete its investigation.

49ers Stadium rendering
HNTB Architecture

A rendering shows the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2014.

Monterroza told the Mercury News that investigators were "carefully going over all of the evidence to make sure the investigation is complete."

OSHA Accident Record

Federal OSHA records show that Schindler Elevator was cited on nine different occasions in 2012 at various sites around the United States.

The 2012 records include:

All of those cases remain open, according to OSHA records.

In addition, OSHA cited and fined the company after an employee fell and broke his pelvis in an elevator shaft in Palo Alto, CA, in April 2011.

The records also show a fatal accident in December 2010. In that case, the Schindler employee had been working alone and was found unresponsive in an elevator pit, caught between an elevator car and a ladder. OSHA said the elevators "had not been properly deenergized or locked out."

Schindler was initially cited for 23 violations and fined $69,300. The case remains open.

Editor's Note: Schindler provided this statement by email at 8:43 p.m. ET Oct. 25:

"Schindler regrets anytime there is an injury or fatality with any of our employees. Our thoughts remain with Mr. White’s family.  

"We are aware, and were surprised to learn that Cal-OSHA has rescinded a notice of no violation.  We believe there was no safety violation on the job site and that Cal-OHSA's notice of no violation remains an appropriate conclusion.

"Nevertheless, we will continue to cooperate with the investigation.  As a leading manufacturer of elevators and escalators since 1874, Schindler is committed to the safety of its equipment, its workers and the riding public."

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Stadiums/Sports Facilities; Subcontractors

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