Companies responsible for Raleigh scaffolding had strong safety records

Posted March 23, 2015 2:43 p.m. EDT
Updated March 23, 2015 7:36 p.m. EDT

— The company behind Monday's fatal construction accident in downtown Raleigh has been cited twice over the past 10 years for workplace safety violations related to scaffolding, a search of records with the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration shows. Overall, Choate Construction, the general contractor, has passed more than 60 inspections since 2000.

The Charter Square project, at 501 Fayetteville St., is being developed by Dominion Realty Partners and was contracted to Atlanta-based Choate. Raleigh-based Associated Scaffolding was a sub-contractor, and it was Associated employees who were in the process of removing and lowering the scaffolding when something went wrong shortly before 11 a.m.

Three people were killed and a fourth seriously injured.

Choate Chief Operating Officer Mike Hampton issued a statement Monday afternoon promising a "full investigation," and said his boss, the owner of Choate Construction, was on the way to Raleigh from Atlanta. State OSHA investigators were also on the scene. The North Carolina Department of Labor will lead the inquiry, agency representative Neal O'Brian said.

"Our first and primary concern is for these personnel and their families," Hampton's statement said.

OSHA records list two serious violations by Choate linked to a 2007 fatal garage collapse in Florida. Twenty people were injured and one died in that incident. A panel later cleared Choate of wrongdoing, citing design flaws that were out of Choate’s control.

A 2009 inspection on a Georgia project found Choate fell short on "fall protection criteria" because a work site lacked hand rails or safety nets for employees working more than six feet off the ground.

In both cases, Choate paid fines.

The company has passed more than 60 inspections since 2000.

Choate touts OSHA compliance on its website, writing, "Choate’s safety record over the last five years includes 40 OSHA inspections, which have resulted in only three non-serious violations. In addition, Choate receives various safety awards every year."

Associated Scaffolding has been in business for almost 70 years, and records show this is the company's first fatal accident. According to its website, the company designs, engineers, installs and dismantles scaffolding for projects across the southeast. Among those projects are the downtown Raleigh Marriott and Terminal 3 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

In 2014, the construction industry was North Carolina's most deadly, according to data from the state Department of Labor. Nineteen people lost their lives working in construction in 2014, or 43 percent of the 44 work-related deaths statewide. Falls accounted for 13 of those deaths.

Charter Square is a planned 11-story, $54 million mixed-use building of residential, office and retail space. It sits across from Marriott City Centre and one block from the Raleigh Convention Center.