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OSHA Levies $150K Fine in IL Demo Death

Monday, October 17, 2016

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A Chicago-area demolition company has been cited by the federal government over safety violations stemming from an April incident in which a worker was killed and three others were injured.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed $152,433 in fines for Omega Demolition, of  Elgin, IL, based on safety and health violations uncovered after the April 5 incident. One worker, 47-year-old Vincente Santoyo, was killed and three others were hurt when what OSHA describes as an overstressed 40-ton beam fell during demolition on I-90 in Des Plaines that day.

Omega did not respond to a request for comment as of Friday (Oct. 14).

Three Violations

The bulk of the fines are from a single “willful” violation, in which OSHA alleges that “employees were exposed to struck-by hazards where structural steel members were overstressed resulting in a collapse.” That violation comes with a fine of $124,709, the highest fine possible for a single violation in that class.

The remaining $27,724 in fines stem from two violations—one “serious” and the other “other-than-serious”—related to training and fit-testing for respirators used at the site.

In addition to the fines, OSHA has placed Omega Demolition in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which subjects companies with multiple repeat violations or failures to abate violations to increased scrutiny. According to OSHA, Omega has faced citations eight times since 2004.

'Tragic and Preventable'

On April 5, 2016, an Omega crew was removing bridge beams from a stretch of roadway as part of a reconstruction project on I-90 in Des Plaines, near O’Hare International Airport, when a beam fell. According to OSHA, inspectors found that the worker who was killed in the incident was working from an aerial lift, torch-cutting steel bracing between two beams, when one broke loose.

OSHA says the beam was overstressed at the time of the incident, a matter that’s addressed in the agency’s regulations on demolition of steel construction.

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Department of Labor

OSHA says Omega Demolition has faced eight citations since 2004.

At the time of the incident, OSHA investigators called it a “tragic and preventable accident.”

Omega Demolition was a subcontractor on the I-90 site, which was part of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway Rebuilding and Widening Project. According to reports, Judlau Contracting, of Lisle, IL, was the prime contractor on the job.

Omega History

Omega Demolition has a history of worker-safety infractions, according to OSHA.

In 2015, Omega was cited by the agency for violations related to asbestos and respiratory protection on a jobsite in Philadelphia, and was fined $2,975. According to OSHA’s online database, those fines are currently subject to debt collection.

In 2014, the firm entered a formal settlement with OSHA for $2,695, for violations related to equipment on a Massachusetts site. In 2011, Omega settled with the agency over violations related to fall protection and lead safety on a Chicago site.

Firm Owner Dies

In September, Omega Demolition co-owner James Gerage, 43, was found dead in the back seat of a burning car in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Cause and manner of death are still under investigation; according to local sources, anti-violence advocates spoke with individuals related to gang activity in the area but said they did not believe gang violence played a role.

Omega Demolition, according to the company’s website, was established in 1997 and has performed demolition and related work in Illinois and elsewhere throughout the United States.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Demolition; Enforcement; Health & Safety; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; Safety

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