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OSHA: Safety ‘Disregarded’ in Death

Monday, June 1, 2015

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AVENEL, NJ—Delfino Jesus Velazquez Mendizabal's death "should never have happened," federal authorities say.

The life of the 46-year-old demolition worker could have been saved had his employer inspected his work site, conducted an engineering survey, not removed first-floor load-bearing walls before those on upper levels, or followed other basic safety requirements.

Instead, Mendizabal was fatally injured in a building collapse just before Thanksgiving during a demolition job at a Staten Island auto dealership.

Delfino Jesus Velazquez Mendizabal
Facebook via

Delfino Jesus Velazquez Mendizabal appeared in a Facebook photo with his wife and grandchild. He was killed just before Thanksgiving. OSHA has cited his employer,

Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited his employer, Formica Construction Co. Inc., for a variety of violations and imposed $121,000 in fines.

Willful Disregard

OSHA inspectors found that Formica Construction, of Port Richmond, NY, willfully disregarded demolition safety protocols designed to prevent such incidents.

Willful violations are OSHA's highest level of infraction, reserved for the most flagrant indifference to worker health and safety.

"This worker's death should never have happened," said Patricia Jones, OSHA's area director for Staten Island. "Had Formica Construction chosen to plan and carry out the demolition correctly, this collapse would not have occurred, and Mr. Mendizabal would not have died."

In all, the agency issued one other-than-serious, three willful and three serious citations.

Training and Inspections

According to OSHA's inspectors, Formica did not:

  • Conduct a required pre-demolition engineering survey to determine the building's stability;
  • Follow required safety practices by removing load-supporting sections of walls and floors before upper-level sections;
  • Shore or brace the walls and floors against collapse while employees worked inside;
  • Conduct ongoing inspections to identify hazards created by the work;
  • Adequately train employees; and
  • Keep a record of on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
Formica Construction Co.
Formica Construction

Formica Construction Co. Inc. received three willful and three serious citations, carrying $121,000 in total fines.

Mendizabal was a husband and father.

"No enforcement action will bring Mr. Mendizabal back to his family, friends and co-workers, but future tragedies can be prevented," said Jones.

"Employers doing demolitions should remember this fatal incident, take note of these violations and follow procedures, so that other workers are not killed or injured."

About Formica

Formica Construction did not respond Friday (May 29) to a request for comment. The family-owned company offers residential, commercial, marine and industrial services in the New York/New Jersey area.

According to OSHA records, these are the company's first OSHA citations

The company has 15 days to contest the citations.



Tagged categories: Commercial contractors; Demolition; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America; OSHA

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (6/1/2015, 8:31 AM)

Not as laughably low as most OSHA fines following a death due to employer gross negligence - but I note in the same day we see a fine over 4x as large for stormwater runoff from 1 construction site, and failure to make site-specific plans for a couple of others.

Comment from Kellie Allen, (6/2/2015, 4:19 PM)

I had a 22 yr old cousin die in a demolition accident many years ago, so I know first hand about employer gross negligence and the lifetime of suffering it can inflict. Recently I heard an OSHA official surprisingly say OSHA fines do not go to OSHA, but rather to the federal government general treasury fund. OSHA is there to document conditions and findings, while the civil penalties generally play out in civil courts. They do assess fines, but those fines are utilized to encourage prompt remedial actions on potential violations. The government collects taxes and the courts apply the penalties, at least up until now.

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