OSHA Fines Demo Contractor After 40-Ton Beam Crushes Laborer

October 14, 2016

A federal investigation has determined that an overstressed 40-ton beam fell and caused the death of a 47-year-old laborer doing demolition of Chicago's Interstate 90 and Touhy Road overpass in April.

On Oct. 3, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the laborer's employer, Omega Demolition Corp., for one willful safety violation for overstressing the beam during demolition. The agency also cited the company for three serious and one other-than-serious health violations following its investigation of the early-morning incident that also injured three other workers on April 5, 2016.

The 187 feet long beam fell at a construction site on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway in Des Plaines, a northwest suburb of Chicago.

Des Plaines Police Chief Bull Kushner said the beam was being moved by two cranes across the I-90 roadway at the time when the weight load shifted, causing the beam to crash down on the four workers below.

"The fact that this incident was preventable only compounds the tragedy," said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "Federal safety standards for demolition address specific procedures for preventing steel structures from being overstressed, a safety violation that directly contributed to the death of this worker."

OSHA inspectors determined the worker was standing in an aerial lift and torch cutting steel bracing between the two beams when one of the beams fell.

The agency also found Omega Demolition failed to follow OSHA standards for respiratory protection including training workers, fit testing them for the appropriate respirator, maintaining fit test records and ensuring respirators were used in compliance with its certification.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $152,433 to the Elgin, Illinois-based company and placed it in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities or jobsites if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.View current citations safety and health citations.

Prior to this inspection, OSHA had inspected Omega Demolition 14 times since 2004 and issued citations in eight of these inspections.