A settlement agreement has been reached between Minnesota’s OSHA, Berwald Roofing and Mortenson Construction after an August 2015 fatality at the U.S. Bank Stadium construction project.
According to the agreement, both companies addressed the hazards found during the subsequent inspection and have paid the citation penalty amounts. Berwald Roofing paid $113,200 for three OSHA violations and Mortenson Construction paid $34,300 for one OSHA violation.
The following is a summary of the investigation which occurred after an employee fell to his death on Aug. 26, 2015.
On Wednesday morning in August, Mortenson Co. employees were on site doing their job duties as normal. This included running the daily morning construction and safety meetings. This also included the daily walkaround of the job site. General equipment on site included a crane, scaffolding and various hand tools.
Berwald Roofing Company Inc. was a subcontractor on site at the U.S. Bank Stadium construction project. The company was doing the install of the weather-tight roof on the North face, and partial South face of the stadium roof. Berwald employees were on site to continue the work of the install
of the North roof face. Part of the work for the day also included installation of the roof around the East access hatch near the peak of the roof. Equipment included materials for installation, adhesives and various hand tools.
Berwald employees arrived at approximately 6:00 a.m. for a daily work meeting. Just an hour and 45 minutes later into the work day, two employees slipped on the PVC membrane the North side of the roof, causing them to slide down.
The first employee slide 170 feet, stopping after hitting a guardrail stanchion. The other worker, who became fatally injured, broke through the guardrail system after sliding down the roof 170 feet, and continued to slide 130 feet down the remainder of the roof until he fell off of the edge of the roof onto an elevated platform in the snow gutter below.
Per Mortenson construction specs, the roof length from peak to eave where the fatality-injured employee traveled was 300 feet. The guardrail the employee broke through was 170 feet from the peak, feet from the eave. The snow gutter ran along the North side of the building. At the point where this worker fell off of the roof, the snow gutter base was 50 feet from the roof eave, which means he fell 25 feet and landed on an elevated work platform that was installed in the snow gutter.
As part of the construction process, subcontractors need to submit worksite plans to Mortenson, including site safety plans. Mortenson must okay the plan before an employer can begin on site. If changes needed to be made, Mortenson could send it back with suggestions, or have a meeting with subcontractor management to discuss the Ian.
Prior to Berwald beginning work, the plan was looked at in February 2015 by Mortenson. They ultimately gave the go ahead to use a redundant guardrail system that the site safety plan called for, on the North roof face as fall protection.
The guardrail system included a guardrail located at the perimeter of the roof. It would include a dual 2x4 top rail, dual 2x4 midrail and single 2x6 toeboard. The redundant second system would begin 25 feet from the perimeter rail, with subsequent rails being set up every 70-80 feet up the slope.
The redundant system would be a dual 2x4 top rail, dual 2x4 midrail and single 2x6 toeboard and netting between the toe board and midrail.
Per the site safety plan, "the purpose of the redundant rail is to serve as an extra safety precaution in the event that anyone or anything was to slide down the roof slope. The slope of the roof was low slope (3.75/12; less than 4/12).” Personal fall arrest systems were to be used outside of the guardrailed area.
OSHA investigators found that show that on Aug. 26, 2015, the day of the fatality, there was only one guardrail system set up on the Eastern half of the North roof face. The Western half of the North roof face still had the redundant s stem set up, including the perimeter guardrail. The guardrail had probably been gone for a month or so, due to finishing sheet metal work being done on the edge of the roof.
Prior to the fatal fall, a similar incident already had occurred in May 2015 but was not brought up to Mortenson Construction management.
Minnesota OSHA cited Mortenson $34,300 for the following serious violation:
The employer did not initiate and maintain safety and health programs that provide for frequent and regular safety inspections of the jobsite, materials and equipment by competent persons designated by the employer.
On August 26, 2015, the employer did not conduct frequent and regular inspections of the North roof, where workers were exposed to fall hazards, to identify and correct foreseeable hazardous conditions.
Berwald Roofing Co. was fined $70,000 for a willful violation after findings showed employees were not provided with adequate fall protection on the day of the fatality. The company received $25,000 in penalties for a serious violation for allowing workers to work on a wet membrane without adequate precautions being taken. Lastly, Berwald was cited $44, 100 for another serious violation for not conducting regular inspections of the North roof, where employees were exposed to fall hazards.
Minnesota OSHA is a division of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.