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Scaffolding Falls Claims 2 Lives

Thursday, June 25, 2015

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AMES, IA--Authorities are investigating a scaffolding accident that killed two workers Friday (June 22) at a new student housing project near Iowa State University.

The workers, identified as Javier Hernandez and Alfredo Jarez, both of Des Moines, fell three stories from scaffolding while working on exterior siding at The Foundry. The six-story apartment complex is nearly complete.

The Foundry
The Opus Group

Two siding workers fell three stories while working on The Foundry, a new apartment complex in Ames, IA. The project, near Iowa State University, is set to open in the fall.

Hernandez, 35, was pronounced dead at the scene. Jarez, whose age was unknown, died later at a local hospital, Ames Police Cmdr. Jason Tuttle told media outlets.

A local television station, KCCI, reported that as one of the workers was falling, the other tried to grab him but could not pull him to safety.

Not Tied In

The cause of the accident remains under investigation by the Ames Police Department, the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the developer.

Police said the workers had been wearing safety harnesses, but they were not fastened to safety ropes on the scaffolding at the time, according to a local newspaper.

The victims had been working for siding subcontractor Whitey Exteriors, of Indianola, IA, on the project.

Developer Statement

The Foundry, on the site of the former campus bookstore, is being developed by Opus Development Company; the design-builder is Opus Design Build LLC. The architect is Opus AE Group and Elness Swenson Graham Architects Inc. of Minneapolis.

Opus said it had halted work on the site over the weekend, but resumed construction activities on Monday (June 22). The company also issued words of condolence on behalf of the project team.

fall protection

Police said the men had been wearing safety harnesses but were not tied in to safety ropes. The image does not show the workers in this case.

“Our sympathies and prayers are with the families of the two workers,” the emailed statement said.

The Foundry is not affiliated with Iowa State University but is located adjacent to the campus, according to a university spokeswoman.

The Project

The Foundry will feature 7,500 square feet of retail space on the ground level and 53 apartment units, according to a project profile on the developer’s site.

The luxury apartment building is scheduled for completion in the fall.

Opus has completed multiple student housing projects throughout the Midwest.

OSHA Records

Both Opus and Whitey Exteriors have records of violations with OSHA.

According to a review of OSHA’s database, Opus was fined $2,450 in March 2015 for two safety hazards at job site in Michigan. The case was informally settled, and the company paid $560.


Falls are the leading cause of death in construction.

The records also show that Opus was cited for one serious safety hazard and fined $1,650 in October 2012. That case was resolved through a formal settlement, and the company paid $825.

Whitey Exteriors was fined $1,500 in January 2014 for a serious safety hazard regarding aerial lifts at a jobsite in Iowa. The siding contractor informally settled the case for $1,000.

In September 2012, Whitey Exteriors was fined $2,100 for two serious safety hazards involving fall protection. The company paid $1,365 to resolve that case, OSHA records show.

Iowa OSHA has six months to complete its investigation into The Foundry scaffolding accident.


Tagged categories: Access; Contractors; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Hazards; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Residential Construction; Scaffolding; Subcontractors

Comment from Mark Clabaugh, (6/25/2015, 9:47 AM)

Why are fines imposed only to be settled at a lower amount? In most cases fines are low compared to the seriousness of the violation to begin with.

Comment from Gregory Stoner, (6/29/2015, 8:11 AM)

Time and time again I have heard complaints of how OSHA doesn't have the clout it needs to encourage compliance and yet when the opportunity arises the initial fines are reduced. But they complied so the fines were reduced is the usual response as though their compliance was at issue. So you are right Mark, no good reason to be lowering fines particularly for repeat offenders.

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