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Contractor, Roofer Settle Stadium Death Case

Monday, December 12, 2016

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Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium builder and roofing subcontractor have paid nearly $150,000 in combined fines stemming from the August 2015 falling death of 35-year-old Jeramie Gruber, authorities have announced.

Mortenson Construction (Minneapolis) and its subcontractor Berwald Roofing (North St. Paul) have settled their respective cases, which were cited in June, according to Minnesota workplace health and safety authorities.

The fatal incident occurred the morning of Aug. 26. Gruber and another worker, both employees of Berwald, had been working on the roof of the new stadium when they slipped on the wet PVC membrane on the north side of the roof, according to state agency’s description of the incident.

Vikings Stadium
By Tony Webster / CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The $1 billion stadium, the new home of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, opened this fall. Jeramie Gruber was killed and another worker injured in a fall from the roof on Aug. 26, 2015.

Gruber broke through a guardrail and fell some 25 feet to his death; meanwhile, his coworker struck the guardrail and survived with an injury to his leg.

'Terrible Accident'

In a statement issued in June 2016, John Wood, Mortenson’s senior vice president, said, “We were and remain deeply saddened by this terrible accident and understand how devastating it has been for all those affected by it, especially the families involved.”

He noted that the global company considers safety “a core value” on its projects.

Gruber was described as a “fun-loving outdoorsman,” on a GoFundMe account set up to assist his wife, Amy, with the financial burden. The campaign hit the $10,000 goal in nine months, with 144 people donating.

Authorities determined that neither worker had been wearing a fall harness. The case documents indicate that a similar fall at the site also occurred in May 2015.

Roofer Citations

The bulk of the fines were directed to Berwald Roofing. The state agency hit the employer with three citations, one willful and two serious, carrying a total of $139,100 in fines. The state investigators found safety protocols against falls inadequate; employees were allowed to work on a wet roof without adequate protection; and the failure to conduct frequent and regular inspections of the north roof.

The company contested the fines and the willful citation was downgraded to serious. The total fine was reduced to $113,200.

Berwald Roofing, a roofing and sheet metal company, has been previously cited by OSHA, according to a review of its database.

Contractor Citations

For its part, Mortenson was initially cited for failing to conduct frequent or regular inspections to identify fall hazards on the north roof. The citation, carrying a $34,300 penalty, was classified as serious.

Following Mortenson’s challenge, the penalty remained but the classification was downgraded to non-serious.

Both companies have paid the fines and corrected the violations, the agency said.

The $1 billion stadium, the new home of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, opened this fall.


Tagged categories: Citations; Ethics; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Roofing contractors; Roofing materials

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