Local News

Three companies cited, fined for role in fatal Raleigh scaffolding collapse

Posted September 23, 2015 3:14 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2015 10:46 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Department of Labor on Wednesday announced that three construction companies have been cited and fined for their role in a deadly scaffolding collapse that happened in March at the Charter Square construction site at the corner of South and Fayetteville streets.

Three construction workers were killed and a fourth was seriously injured on March 23 when scaffolding collapsed at the Charter Square site.

Jose Erasmo Hernandez, 41, of Durham; Jose Luis Lopez-Ramirez, 33, of Clinton; and Anderson Almeida, 33, of Durham, fell to their deaths. Elmer Guevara, 53, was treated for serious injuries.

The accident involved equipment known as a mast climber scaffold, which moves up and down a building's facade to transport workers to different floors. Workers were in the process of dismantling the scaffold when one of the tracks snapped off and fell into a twisted heap on the ground.

Associated Scaffolding Co. Inc., Jannawall Inc. and Juba Aluminum Products Co. were all cited.

Attorneys from Edwards Kirby LLP, the firm that represents the three men who were killed, said that they are continuing to investigate the causes of the accident and will make a decision about a course of litigation once the investigation is complete.

"This is a step forward in determining why this tragedy occurred," said partner David Kirby. "Our clients are looking for answers."

Associated Scaffolding allegedly committed three willful violations and one serious violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina, investigators said. Investigators said the company loaded scaffolding with more weight than it was designed to hold, did not install scaffolding components to manufacturer's recommendations and did not provide a competent person to work on safety procedures to keep workers from falling. The company was fined a total of $151,900.

The Labor Department also cited Jannawall and Juba Aluminum Products for one alleged serious violation each. The companies were fined $4,200. The maximum penalty for serious OSHA violations is $7,000.

The North Carolina AFL-CIO issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that they were disappointed that the companies did not face the maximum fine.

“While we are glad the Department of Labor is holding these companies accountable for their role in this workplace tragedy, we had hoped the Commissioner would levy the steepest fines possible. We hope the fines are not reduced further during the appeals process. Companies whose negligence costs workers their lives should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

The companies have 15 working days to request an informal conference with the Labor Department, file a notice of contest or pay the penalties.

No OSHA citations were issued to KEA Contracting Inc. and Choate Construction Co., two other companies investigated following the accident.