January 9, 2014 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 1Comment

[Updates below]

Angel Garcia, 28 is being remembered as a son who dearly loved his family, and basketball. He died last month while working on a $450 million renovation project at Texas A&M University’s football stadium. Garcia, a construction worker who was employed by Lindamood Demolition, fell four stories and died shortly thereafter.

OSHA is conducting a post-fatality inspection at the scene and of Lindamood’s operations.  Just last year, the firm was subject to an inspection by OSHA at a demolition site in Wichita Falls, TX.  The company received a citation and $4,900 penalty for a serious violation of OSHA’s standard for demolition projects. Lindamood failed to have a competent person evaluate

“the condition of the framing, floors, and walls, and possibility of unplanned collapse of any portion of the structure.”

In a settlement agreement with the firm, OSHA reclassified the violation from serious to other-than-serious, and reduced the penalty to $2,000.

Was that infraction a precursor for the fatal injuries that killed Angel Garcia? Was it an early warning about the effectiveness of his Lindamood’s safety program?

OSHA has until June 2014 to determine if the firm violated safety standards which may have contributed to Angel Garcia’s death. Their findings might help answer those questions.

Six months before Angel Garcia’s death, OSHA inspectors were at the scene of another serious incident on the Texas A&M campus. It involved a massive collapse at the construction site for the University’s $80 million equestrian complex.  KBTX reported,

“workers were in elevated positions tying steel together when…the 35-foot-tall, 300-foot-long barn under construction collapsed.”

Four workers were seriously injured, and efforts to free them were halted for a period of time until the buckled structure could be stabilized. One of the workers, Jose Santos Argueta, was in critical condition in the days following the collapse.

The employers responsible for the construction project are Houston-based Gamma Construction Co. and Ramco Erectors. Last month, OSHA issued citations to both firms related to the catastrophic incident. Gamma Construction, the project’s general contractor, received a citation and a proposed $6,300 penalty for one serious violation for failing to maintain structural stability during the erection process. Gamma Construction has been cited repeatedly for failing to comply with OSHA’s fall protection standards.

Ramco Erectors was cited for seven serious violations including, failing to:

  • ensure that the steel structure was erected to maintain its structural stability;
  • ensure fall protection components and wire rope clips used for rigging were the appropriate type;
  • remove defective lift hooks; and
  • have a site-specific erection plan.

The penalty proposed by OSHA is $40,500 penalty.

Ramco Erectors has a long history of getting caught violating worker safety standards.Since 2010, Ramco has had at least two repeat violations involving fall protection, and numerous serious violations related to scaffolding, ladders, cranes and rigging. Nine inspections by OSHA in recent years resulted in penalties totaling $33,410 paid by the company. Obviously, those lowly penalties have not served as a deterrent.

Angel Garcia lost his life last month while doing construction work on the Texas A&M campus. Four workers nearly had the same fate six months earlier at the same public institution. You’d think a large, public institution would only want to contract with firms that have a proven record of worker safety performance. Texas A&M is the third largest university in the U.S. It has an endowment of more than $5 billion, the fourth largest among U.S. public universities. It wouldn’t take much for Texas A&M, or any organization for that matter, to use OSHA’s website to check the violation history of firms that want their business. Texas A&M’s contract negotiators would have quickly seen that Ramco Erectors and Gamma Construction are repeat violators of fundamental worker safety regulations.

It’s time for public institutions, whether state-funded universities or government agencies, to set a high bar in selecting firms to provide them with goods and services. Off limits should be companies with repeat or willful violations of OSHA regulations. That simple contracting requirement would have kept Ramco Erectors and Gamma Construction off Texas A&M list of eligible bidders. It’s time for public institutions to award contract only to firms who follow the law—especially when those laws are designed to save workers’ lives.

[Update May 24, 2014: OSHA and Ramco Erectors settled the case. One of the six serious violations was reclassified as “other-than-serious,” and the$40,500 penalty was reduced to $20,800.]

[Update May 29, 2014: OSHA issued citations and penalties to Lindamood Demolition for two serious and one willful violation of worker safety standards. OSHA proposed a penalty of $63,200.]

One thought on “Unsafe building projects at Texas A&M campus keep OSHA busy

  1. OSHA seems far too busy of late. Seems like everyone just wants to do whatever they want and ignore everything that OSHA has built. Then they get slammed with fines. Ridiculous.

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