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World Cup Work Halts after Fatal Fall

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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Labor officials have partially stopped work at a Brazilian World Cup stadium construction site where a 22-year-old worker plummeted 115 feet to his death—the third worker fatality at a tournament site in one month.

On Sunday (Dec. 15), a labor court ordered a halt to work on part of the venue in Manaus, Amazonas, where laborers need to be high above the ground.

Authorities said working conditions at the Arena da Amazonia were “unacceptably dangerous,” according to reports.

Arena Amazonia
Government of Amazonas / CNN

Labor officials have halted work on the roof of the multimillion-dollar Arena da Amazonia in Manaus after a fatal fall.

Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira reportedly fell early Saturday (Dec. 14) when a cable broke as he prepared for a night shift on the roof of the Arena da Amazonia. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Workers like Ferreira were said to be balancing on steel girders to install roof panels.

Local World Cup organizers have denied news reports that said some 1,800 construction workers walked off the Manaus project early Monday (Dec. 16) to protest unsafe working conditions and reported pressure to speed up the project. A local union had reportedly planned a strike at the site, but that was not confirmed.

Projects Plagued by Death

Ferreira’s death marked the third fatality at a tournament building site in less than a month and the second death at the stadium this year; another worker died there in March.

Madison / Wikimedia Commons

Manaus is the capital city of Amazonas. It is one of the host cities for the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

A few hours after Ferreira's fatal fall, a 49-year-old unidentified worker suffered a fatal heart attack while paving an area outside the Arena Amazonia. His family told reporters he had been overworked.

Arena Amazonia is one of six stadiums under construction in Brazil that was supposed to be finished Dec. 31, according to a FIFA deadline. Officials have said Brazil will miss the due date, but insist the country will be ready for the opening of the sporting event June 12.

Working at Heights Stopped

Sunday’s decision by a Manaus labor court to stop work in all areas where laborers need to be high above the ground followed a request by public prosecutors.

"The Public Prosecutor's Office cannot allow the urgency of finishing construction for the 2014 World Cup to be at the cost of the life and well-being of those working on it," the request read, according to BBC News.

According to The Associated Press, “workers were installing diamond-shaped panels to the latticework of steel girders that form part of the stadium roof.” The panels on the roof are meant to resemble snake scales, the AP said.

The labor court said the contractors must present a detailed report showing that safety precautions were in place.

The venue is said to be 93 percent completed. Work continued Monday on other parts of the structure.

Contractor Statement

A spokesperson for Andrade Gutierrez, the construction company in charge of the project, told media outlets that the company was trying to reverse the labor court ruling.

The company said it was investigating Ferreira’s death and reiterated its commitment to worker safety.

The Manaus stadium is scheduled to host four World Cup matches, beginning with England vs. Italy on June 14. It will also host the United States vs. Portugal on June 22.

Crane Collapse

The weekend death comes less than a month after a crane collapse killed two workers at the nearly completed Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo.

Arena Corinthians
George ge Ahammadhu / Twitter

Two workers perished Nov. 27 when a 420-ton metal roofing module collapsed onto the Sao Paulo stadium Arena Corinthians. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

On Nov. 27, the crane had been hoisting a 420-ton metal roofing module—the last of 38 modules for the roof—when it fell onto the stadium. About 1,350 workers were on site at the time, officials said.

A safety engineer at the site allegedly warned his supervisor of unstable ground around the stadium before the accident, but his warnings were not heeded, a labor union leader told The Associated Press. The construction company has denied the accusation.

However, the Labor Ministry has ordered general contractor Odebrecht not to use the other cranes on the site until “safety measures are in place and there is no more risk of accidents."

The accident remains under investigation.

FIFA Response

"FIFA and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) learned of the death of the worker on Saturday at the Arena Amazonia site with great sadness," World Cup organizers said in a statement. "We would like to send our most sincere condolences to his family, relatives, colleagues and friends."

After the deaths in Sao Paulo, FIFA said "the safety of workers is the top priority" for the sport’s governing body and local organizers.

Strike at Arena

The Arena da Baixada in Curitiba has also made headlines as of late, workers there have gone on strike over late pay.

That stadium is said to be one of the most delayed among the six projects that have yet to be completed.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Cranes; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Latin America; Paint application equipment; Roofing contractors; Roofing materials; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

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