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Shortcuts Revealed in Fatal FL Collapse

Monday, April 15, 2013

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Five contractors are being blamed for a variety of shortcuts—from skipped inspections and welds to ignoring construction plans—in a Florida building collapse that killed four workers last fall.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued serious federal safety citations and a total of $38,000 in fines against the general contractor and four subcontractors in the parking garage disaster at Miami-Dade University West Campus in Doral, FL.

The five-story structure, which also included classroom and office space, was weeks from completion when it pancaked, level by level, on Oct. 10, fatally crushing four workers.

OSHA's investigation found that the structure had not been erected in accordance with construction documents, and engineering inspections weren’t fully carried out.

Miami Dade Fire Rescue
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

Four workers were killed when a nearly completed parking garage in Doral, FL, toppled level by level on Oct. 10, 2012. OSHA has issued safety violations to five companies responsible for its construction.

Investigators also discovered missing welds and grout in some support columns, exposing workers to being struck by or caught between collapsing precast structure components, according to the agency.

The companies cited Monday (April 8) were Ajax Building Corp.; Coreslab Structures (Miami) Inc.; Solar Erectors U.S. Inc.; Florida Lemark Corp.; and MEP Structural Engineering and Inspections Inc.

Coreslab Structures, a major North American supplier of precast concrete slabs, has also been involved in the investgation into the fatal collapse of the Algo Centre Mall in Ontario. Solar Erectors is a subsidiary of Coreslab Structures.

Deadly Collapse

A portion of the parking garage collapsed level by level on Oct. 10, 2012, claiming the lives of Jose Calderon, Carlos Hurtado de Mendoza, Samuel Perez, and Robert Budhoo and injuring at least nine others. None of the injured were students.

As many as 17 workers—including painters, welders, and electricians—were working on the premises that day, reports indicated.

It took rescuers more than a week to recover Budhoo’s body, as the site was deemed too unstable to be disturbed.

Federal safety authorities began their investigation immediately after the collapse.

The $22.5 million parking garage featured 1,855 parking spaces and a lower level with classroom and office space. It was designed by Harvard Jolly Architects and was set to be completed in December 2012.

parking garage
Ajax Building Corp.

The $22.5 million parking garage, featuring 1,855 parking spaces and a lower level with classroom and office space, was to be completed in December 2012.

Miami-Dade College officials have yet to decide whether to salvage and rebuild the garage, according to reports.

General Contractor Cited

OSHA hit Ajax Building Corp., the general contractor on the project, with a $6,300 proposed fine for “not ensuring the parking garage structure was inspected and erected in accordance with instructions provided in project drawings, precast manufacturer’s drawings and the erectors procedures,” according to the citation.

In an emailed statement Thursday (April 11), a spokesperson for the 54-year-old construction company wrote: “The OSHA review of the October 2012 construction accident is still underway. Ajax continues to actively cooperate with OSHA in its review through the informal conference process, and out of respect for that process we will reserve any comment until the review is concluded.”

Ajax Building has no previous record of OSHA violations, according to the agency’s online database.

In the days following the collapse, Ajax president William Byrne told reporters that a crane had bumped a column before the garage toppled.

Structure Erection Issues, Subs Cited

Coreslab Structures (Miami) Inc., which provided the precast concrete and designed the precast structure, was cited for not ensuring proper erection. OSHA proposed a $7,000 fine against the company for the alleged infraction.

Coreslab Structures, headquartered in Stoney Creek, Ontario, operates 18 precast/prestressed concrete production facilities and stands as a major supplier in the structural, architectural and hollow-core markets in both Canada and the United States.

Miami Dade College Garage
Ajax Building Corp.

OSHA cited the general contractor and subcontractors for not ensuring proper erection of the five-story structure.

The company has recently made headlines for its ties to another deadly structural collapse in Elliot Lake, Canada.

Coreslab Structures made the precast hollow concrete slabs more than three decades ago that fell last June at the Algo Centre Mall; the company's vice president has testified at a public inquiry into that collapse.

An OSHA database search of Coreslab (Miami) yielded 47 previous safety violations since 2003, including wiring method hazards, respiratory protection, and crane operation.

Missing Welds, Unbraced Columns

Solar Erectors U.S. Inc., of Medley, FL, reportedly a subsidiary of Coreslab, was cited for two alleged violations in the Florida garage collapse, each carrying $6,930 in proposed fines. The company, which installs precast concrete slabs, was cited for:

  • Not performing all the required welds and ensuring all the columns were properly grouted; and
  • Unbraced columns in the north-south direction.

The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

In November 2012, Solar Erectors was fined $9,800 (reduced to $6,860) for one serious and one other-than-serious violation involving aerial lift safety and fall protection, according to OSHA’s database.

Grout Missing

The project’s grouting contractor, Florida Lemark Corp., based in Doral, was also hit with a federal safety violation, carrying a $6,300 fine, for failing to grout structural “columns B-3 and A-3.3,” according to the federal agency.

The company did not respond to a request for comment on the citation.

Florida Lemark’s record with OSHA includes violations classified as other-than-serious from January 2011, carrying total penalties of $6,300, for safety training. The violations and fines were confirmed in an Administrative Law Judge decision, according to OSHA.

Inspections Not Performed

OSHA also cited MEP Structural Engineering and Inspections Inc. for failing to “conduct inspections of 18 columns” on the project and proposed a $4,900 penalty, according to the citation.

The firm did not respond to a request for comment.

A search for past OSHA violations issued against the company did not yield results.

Lawsuits Loom

Families of the deceased workers have initiated lawsuits against several of the companies involved, seeking millions of dollars in damages, according to reports.

rescue workers
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials combed through the debris in search of workers. Four were killed in the collapse; nine others were injured.

"I think this shows what we've been saying all along: that this was an accident waiting to happen. Literally, a death trap," according to Ervin Gonzalez, an attorney who represents the families of two dead workers and one worker who was injured.

Gonzalez told the Associated Press that evidence gathered so far showed the accident probably stemmed from a rush to finish the project.

The companies have 15 days from the receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


Tagged categories: Citations; Commercial Construction; Concrete; Fatalities; Grout; Health and safety; Inspection; OSHA; Parking Garages; Quality Control; Regulations; Welding

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