A St. Michael-based contractor responsible for demolition of the old Gillette building in Lowertown of St. Paul has been fined more than $50,000 after Minnesota OSHA found three violations in a partial collapse that killed one of the company’s workers last fall.
Johnny Valek, 61, Plymouth was trapped and killed after a portion of the concrete building collapsed and a slab of more than 3,000 square-feet crushed the cab of a backhoe he was operating.
Rachel was working as a subcontractor for the multi-million dollar project, while Twin Cities-based Ryan Cos. is leading construction of the ballpark.
While Ryan was not fined or found guilty of any violations, Rachel was put to task for three different operations errors that they found led to the fatal accident.
According to the federal OSHA site, they involved:
• Preparatory operations: Before workers can start demolition, an engineering survey must be conducted “to determine the condition of the framing, floors, and walls, and possibility of unplanned collapse of any portion of the structure,” according to OSHA standards. Minnesota OSHA fined Rachel $1,650.
• Removal of walls, masonry sections and chimneys: “Structural or load-supporting members on any floor shall not be cut or removed until all stories above such a floor have been demolished and removed,” OSHA standards say. State OSHA fined Rachel $25,000.
• Mechanical demolition: Continuing inspections should be made during demolition “to detect hazards resulting from weakened or deteriorated floors, or walls, or loosened material,” OSHA says. OSHA fined the company $25,000.
Ryan Cos. released a statement to media Wednesday afternoon, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
“Ryan has high safety standards and places great importance on running safe jobsites, and we respect OSHA’s authority in this matter. While we are grateful to bring this part of the process to closure as progress continues on bringing a great new ballpark to the city of St. Paul, we keep Mr. Valek’s family in our hearts and prayers.”
At the time of the accident the Valek family stated, “John was a truly loving father who was preparing for retirement after more than 25 years of deconstruction experience, specializing in building demolition. He was considered an expert in his field and was highly respected by his peers. While he looked forward to retirement, those feelings paled in comparison to the excitement he held for his daughter’s upcoming wedding. It is that devotion that we will miss most.”
According to the OSHA website, a $25,000 fine is the minimum in a case where an error led to a worker’s death.