ABC Waterproofer and Contractor With History of Violations Responsible for Death of Two in Tennessee
Two workers were killed and another injured when a 25-foot wall collapsed in Hendersonville, TN on April 18th. The Tennessee Division of Occupational Safety and Health is now investigating the incident which The Tennessean describes:
The accident killed Joel Pineda Muniz, 24, of Nashville, and Bethpage resident Jose P. Velasco-Sanagustin, 37. A third worker, Jeff Costello, 44, of Scottsville, Ky., was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He was in stable condition Thursday night.
The general contractor on the project is Solomon Builders, Inc. of Nashville. One of the victims, Muniz, worked for N&S Waterproofing, LLC of Nashville, a member of the staunchly anti-union Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC). The ABC is notorious for seeking to roll back safety provisions and preventing agreements and laws that aim to protect workers and pay such as Project Labor Agreements and prevailing wages. They lobby for these positions under the guise of preventing “discrimination” against non-union contractors and workers. Unfortunately, this can result in dangerous conditions for the workers they suggest they’re lobbying for.
Jeff Bradford, a spokesman for the general contractor, Solomon, told The Tennessean,
“It appears that a strong gust of wind blew a wall down,” Bradford said. “That is really as much as we know.”
Last time we checked, wind wasn’t supposed to be able to knock a building down. Did we miss the news reports about Tropical Storm Big Bad Wolf?
Solomon Brothers had previously never been involved in a deadly accident but has been fined by TOSHA for serious violations, according to WSMV Nashville:
…since 2006, Solomon Brothers has received nine workplace violations from the Tennessee Occupational Safety & Health Administration – five of them considered serious violations, including violations while constructing a building on 18th Avenue South and another on Highway 70.
The most recent – and most serious violation – pertained to the company not having adequate devices and procedures in place in case a worker fell.
It is unclear what happened to cause the wall to collapse Thursday in Hendersonville and whether Solomon Builders or its subcontractors – N&S Waterproofing and Thornes Excavating – could have prevented it.
“We have an investigator on site who will look at the role all three employers may have played in this unfortunate event. We will be interviewing employees on site. We’ll be taking measurements, photographs and reconstruct the events that happened,” said TOSHA administrator Steve Hawkins.
The brother of one of the victims spoke this week. It will be interesting to discover whether the deceased were properly documented workers since Tennessee has a history of leaving employers of highly exploitable, undocumented workers unpunished.
TOSHA Administrator Steve Hawkins talked about the necessary safety procedures that surround the construction of a wall like the one that collapsed.
Rules are in place to protect workers against walls collapsing while they are under construction, Hawkins said. Wall collapses are not common, but not unheard of in Tennessee, Hawkins said.
“You would have to look a long way back to find the last time it has happened,” he said. “But the hazard is well-known, and a (new) wall is required to be braced until the structural integrity is enhanced by tying it in with other components (of the building).”
Solomon Brothers released a statement to WSMV Nashville in which they defended their safety record and downplayed their history of citations.
We are very focused on the needs of the families, employers and employees of all those involved. It is a tragedy and we are deeply saddened. We are especially saddened because we take safety very seriously at Solomon Builders. In response to your questions, of the five serious violations we have received over the past 8 years, 4 of them were a matter of personal choices by individuals (ie: not wearing a safety harness that they were provided) rather than an unsafe work environment. The one other classified “serious” violation was a missing handrail which can be issued for a stairway as low as 30″ tall. All in all, a pretty strong safety environment, which we work hard to maintain.”
Deflect, deflect, deflect. Next step: go tell the Muniz and Velasco-Sanagustin families how hard you’re working to keep your jobsites safe…